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La Liga: Valencia CF 0-1 FC Barcelona: Match Review

A recap of FC Barcelona's narrow victory over high-flying Valencia CF at the Mestalla, as a dramatic late winner from Sergio Busquets secured a priceless victory for the Blaugrana

This game blew my mind as well Luisito
This game blew my mind as well Luisito
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

A goal right at the death from Sergio Busquets saved the day, ensuring that FC Barcelona escaped the Mestalla with all three points as an injury-time winner secured a 1-0 victory for the Blaugrana against their spirited hosts. For 90 minutes, Valencia had been equal to Barça’s best efforts, albeit with a little luck here and there and just as it seemed as though they had the point to show for it, Busquets thumped home a winner much to the delight of Culés across the globe.

Valencia

Barcelona

Possession

29%

71%

Total Shots

12

11

Shots on Target

4

3

Corners

5

8

Fouls

10

9

Offsides

3

5

Yellow Cards

3

4

Red Cards

0

0



A big game and a big surprise in the line-up, as Luis Enrique shocked the world by selecting both Javier Mascherano and Sergio Busquets in the Barça midfield. Early suggestions hinted at Mascherano continuing at pivote while Sergio Busquets advanced into a more offensive role alongside Xavi Hernández, but only time would tell. Aside from that, it was as expected. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar were paired together in attack, while Gerard Piqué, Dani Alves, Jordi Alba and Jeremy Mathieu started at the back.

Would it be enough to secure the three points? Would Enrique’s gamble help Barça bring Valencia’s unbeaten streak at the Mestalla to an abrupt end?

***

The early tactical question surrounded Lucho’s selection – would Barça line-up as expected above, or would we instead switch to a 3-4-3? The answer? Both...and neither. It depended quite literally on the passage of play. Sometimes it was in the 3-4-3, sometimes it was in the 4-3-3, and sometimes it was in another system all together. Whatever was happening tactically, it was slightly unsettling as Barça started the match somewhat ponderously, handing Valencia an early upper-hand in the momentum stakes.

However, aside from Rodrigo’s low shot from outside the area which forced Claudio Bravo into his first save of the evening, Valencia failed to really capitalise on their early "advantage", enabling their illustrious visitors to settle in possession and begin dictating the terms and tempo of the match.

Naturally, that didn’t work out all too well for them. Gerard Piqué was given time to get his head-up around the half-way line, as in spite of their high line, Valencia didn’t really press the man in possession. Consequently, a passer of Piqué’s ability was able to lift the ball over the Valencia backline to find the intelligent diagonal run of Neymar. It was beautifully weighted pass, and one that Neymar attempted to take in his stride.

For once, the Brazilian wasn’t able to bring the pass under his spell, but his miscontrol did ensure that the loose ball fell kindly to Luis Suarez, who proceeded to go for goal with all the precision of a jackhammer. Sure, his effort had power, but it didn’t have much else and Diego Alves reacted well to avert the danger. That being said, for a player of his calibre, it was a wasted opportunity.

The pressure was building, and a driving run from Lionel Messi caused the Valencia defense more problems. Selflessly he handed the ball off to Neymar and just as the Brazilian looked to pull the trigger, a fabulous sliding challenge from Nicolas Otamendi stole the ball away for a corner kick. In the follow-through, Otamendi caught Neymar and of course, Neymar went to ground. No appeals for a penalty, yet Otamendi took offense to Neymar succumbing to physics and decided to have a few words with the forward.

Having had to deal with an immeasurable amount of shit from defenders since his move to Catalunya a year ago, Neymar reacted by moving his head towards Otamendi’s prompting a hilariously hypocritical fall from the giant Argentine centre-half. After all, Neymar goes down too easily, but when a six foot plus central defender falls as a result of a brush from someone probably half a foot smaller and easily 20kg lighter in Neymar’s head...well, you see where I’m going with this.

The ensuing melee of discontent and handbags earned Gerard Piqué and Antonio Barragan yellow cards for dissent, and with Jeremy Mathieu already cautioned, Jordi Alba felt it was time to join his colleagues in the referee’s bad books. Only half an hour had been played at the Mestalla and already three of Barça’s four-man backline was in the book.

Splendid.

An incorrect offside call robbed Luis Suarez of a chance to convert another lofted through ball, yet that was probably for the best as one-on-one with Diego Alves, Suarez’ finish after the whistle had gone was quite frankly embarrassing. Why couldn’t these chances fall to a Neymar, or a Lionel Messi? If they had, I’m certain the scoreline would have looked a little different.

Alas, the chances were falling to Suarez and the two teams were still tied as a result. A tight game, but one that Barça had been edging on the basis of their first-half performance. However, with chances coming at a premium and with the majority of their backline carrying a caution, this match really was finely poised as we entered the half-time break.

***

Similar to the first period, another ponderous start awaited Culés in the second half as again, Valencia emerged from kick-off as the stronger side. Forcing Barça back with an up-tempo approach, Los Che caused a few moments of minor panic in the Blaugrana defense, yet in a carbon copy of that first half, the pressure dissipated without much warning. All of a sudden, the danger subsided and Barcelona were able to establish their usual style in the hope of breaking the deadlock.

Their usual style though wasn’t really being given a fair chance – at almost every opportunity, Barça opted for the longer ball, the lofted pass; which was all well and good as we were creating chances, but again, these chances weren’t amounting to goals. Perhaps a different, more orthodox approach would pay dividends?

Still, Barça persisted and created another chance. Challenging with Diego Alves for a loose ball after a lobbed through ball from Mascherano, Suarez seemed to have engineered himself an open goal, only to drag his shot hopelessly wide. It was agonising to watch, but promising all the same. Just as people would make comparisons to suggest that Alexis Sánchez for instance might have scored that chance, he equally would not have had the heart and thought to challenge for the ball in the first place as Suarez did.

If the chances were falling to Suarez, the brightest offensive option for Barça was actually Neymar. With Messi somewhat subdued, Neymar was the driving force behind most of the visitors’ attacks, dribbling at the Valencia defenders and generally causing a nuisance. His link-up play was excellent, yet no-one else quite seemed to be on the same wave-length meaning it often went to waste.

65 minutes gone at the Mestalla; no goals, and no changes either. Ivan Rakitić however was warming up and with 20 minutes left to play, the Croatian midfielder entered the game for Jeremy Mathieu. Back went Javier Mascherano and Sergio Busquets, enter a more conventional shape for Barcelona.

Cue an immediate chance – Neymar’s deflected shot fell to Dani Alves and the Brazilian fired it across goal to find Luis Suarez, who intelligently diverted it into the corner of the net for what should have been the opener. Indeed it would have been, if not for the assistant referee who incorrectly raised his flag for an offside.

At the other end, a lightning Valencia break created a numerical advantage for the hosts – a rare 3-on-2 – but Claudio Bravo was equal to the shot from Feghouli and Barça escaped unscathed. It may have been goalless at the Mestalla, but it was enthralling stuff. You simply couldn’t take your eyes off the action for fear of missing what could be the all-important moment, either of brilliance or madness that ultimately decided the game.

Another great save from Claudio Bravo kept the game goalless as Mascherano’s slip nearly gifted a goal to Alvaro Negredo, prompting a couple more substitutions for Barcelona – a final roll of the dice from Enrique. On came Pedro and Rafinha, off went Xavi and Luis Suarez...two surprising changes, but hey, they ultimately hadn’t got the job done either, had they?

A final roll of the dice could have paid dividends, but ultimately it only served to accentuate Barcelona’s problems. Without Xavi and Suarez, we struggled to create another meaningful chance and could only rue the ones we had wasted in the rest of the game.

And just as all hope seemed lost...just as it seemed the game was over, as if the advantage had truly been handed to Real Madrid an unlikely hero stepped to the fore. A cross from Lionel Messi, deepi into injury time found Neymar at the back post. Unmarked, unchallenged, Neymar looked set to bury the chance only for a heroic super-save from Diego Alves to keep the Brazilian at bay. It wasn’t our night...surely?

Not if Sergio Busquets had anything to do with it. The final word, the last laugh...went to the Catalans. Sergio Busquets saw the loose ball and capitalised. He took the initiative, seized the moment and thumped home a left-footed volley. Valencia tried to keep it at bay, but it was futile. Busquets had won it at the death.

Next up, Barcelona travel to Huesca for their first match of the season in the Copa del Rey, but until then, Visca el Barça!

Roll Call Info
Total comments 457
Total commenters 45
Commenter list 0nk0, Abdul95, Anders Thomassen, Anirudh_Kul, AraibKarim, Aveblaugrana, Bostjan Cernensek, Catalan_Blood, CifuentesErick, Daniel_Cule_13, Daxterflames, Eddie Pundell, El_Illusionista, FCBblaug, First_Cule, Giancarlo8, GoBarca, Ian Reynolds, Jose-Armendariz, KiwiBarca, MMcCoy11_FCB, MessiLeftFoot, Navz, Rajesh1101s, Richzorz, Satvik, Staralfur, TheOnlyPtolemy, Waje.y, Willis1984, abdulla0207, barcafanever, defeaning_silence, footballfordoze, hobo_barca, jonathanvazquez10, milesbarca, mrs.madridista, oddsbodiSkins, pranaydhone, semperty, shubham2806, syredeathtrooper, tilak, un saico
Story URLs
# Commenter # Comments
1 Bostjan Cernensek 68
2 KiwiBarca 55
3 Anders Thomassen 52
4 Willis1984 42
5 First_Cule 26
6 Navz 18
7 AraibKarim 16
8 MessiLeftFoot 16
9 hobo_barca 11
10 milesbarca 11
11 Richzorz 11
12 barcafanever 9
13 abdulla0207 9
14 MMcCoy11_FCB 9
15 Rajesh1101s 8
16 syredeathtrooper 8
17 CifuentesErick 7
18 Catalan_Blood 6
19 El_Illusionista 6
20 FCBblaug 6
21 mrs.madridista 6
22 Abdul95 5
23 shubham2806 5
24 Daxterflames 5
25 Ian Reynolds 4
26 Aveblaugrana 4
27 Eddie Pundell 3
28 Daniel_Cule_13 3
29 GoBarca 3
30 pranaydhone 3
31 Anirudh_Kul 3
32 Giancarlo8 2
33 Satvik 2
34 0nk0 2
35 oddsbodiSkins 2
36 defeaning_silence 2
37 jonathanvazquez10 1
38 Staralfur 1
39 Jose-Armendariz 1
40 footballfordoze 1
41 Waje.y 1
42 un saico 1
43 tilak 1
44 TheOnlyPtolemy 1
45 semperty 1

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