3rd February, 2019
The photo above sums up what transpired between Barcelona F.C. and Valencia a few hours ago as both teams went head to head in a Laliga match that can best be described as a real explosive thriller.
If anyone had thought that Valencia went to the Camp Nou for a picnic, they were in for a shock as the visiting team gave Barca a real run for their money and of course, it took some magical display of leadership once again from “Captain Marvelous Messi” to save the situation for Barcelona.
The home team surprisingly found themselves trailing by two goals in just 32 minutes of the game and just had to claw their way back to salvage a point from it.
The Blaugrana captain was in inspired form after it looked as though Ernesto Valverde’s call to shuffle his pack would see his side come away empty-handed as they deservedly trailed to efforts from Kevin Gameiro and Daniel Parejo.
The league leaders rallied and Messi scored either side of half-time to clinch a point in a match packed with incident.
Barcelona failed to heed early warnings as Marc-Andre ter Stegen made an instinctive stop from Parejo and watched Denis Cheryshev strike the post, before Rodrigo Moreno fed Gameiro to smash in the opener.
It was two when Sergi Roberto shoved Daniel Wass to the ground in the area and Parejo scored from the spot – shortly after an outstanding Neto save at the other end – but a second penalty award breathed new life into Barca.
Referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco blew for a foul on Nelson Semedo moments before Messi arrowed the loose ball into the top corner, but the official’s blushes were spared as the same man netted from 12 yards.
Roberto cracked the upright and Messi wastefully volleyed over as Valencia’s defensive effort became increasingly desperate, although Rodrigo twice went close to a clinching third following the restart.
Predictably, it was Messi who made the Valencia forward pay, curling a low effort around two defenders from 25 yards.
Barca’s talisman subsequently required treatment for an apparent thigh ailment, but he returned to see out the 90 minutes as his side fell short of completing the turnaround and claiming all three points.
Valverde pays for defensive changes
Approaching a key stretch in the season, with crunch Copa del Rey and Champions League matches to come and the title race a long way from over, Valverde’s decision to leave out Clement Lenglet and Jordi Alba always looked a risky one. And his reshuffle at the back duly backfired as a dismal defensive showing granted Valencia a handsome first-half lead.
Messi magic makes the difference
Who else? Time and time again throughout his storied Barcelona career, Messi has come to the rescue. It was no different on Saturday as Valverde’s men looked down and out after just over half an hour. The Argentina great peppered Neto’s goal and got his reward, even atoning for an uncharacteristic close-range miss.
Barcelona’s focus will now shift to the first of three Clasicos in the space of a month, welcoming Madrid to Camp Nou in a midweek Copa del Rey semi-final first leg. Valencia visit Betis next in the same competition.
Ernesto Valverde has confirmed that Lionel Messi will be assessed by Barcelona’s medical staff after taking a knock in the 2-2 draw against Valencia.
Messi appeared to suffer with a thigh issue in the second half, receiving treatment on the touchline before returning to the action as Valencia held on.
There was obvious concern for the Barca captain with a Copa del Rey Clasico against Real Madrid just four days away, but Valverde will wait for answers ahead of tests.
“[Messi] has a small problem,” Valverde said. “I don’t know exactly what he has.
“We will have to wait to see what medical staff say. If he’s in good shape, he’ll play on Wednesday [against Madrid].”
Meanwhile, midfielder Ivan Rakitic was impressed with the way Barca responded to the two-goal deficit, although he was left frustrated that they could only claim one point.
“We had a great desire to turn it around,” Rakitic said. “In the second half, we were far superior. It was like we were playing handball. We were just missing a goal.”