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Valencia 1-1 Barcelona, 2017 La Liga: Match Review

Recap of the action from the highly anticipated top of the league match-up.

Valencia v Barcelona - La Liga Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

In a very entertaining match at the electric Mestalla stadium, both Barcelona and Valencia extended their unbeaten streaks to start the 2017-18 season. Rodrigo Moreno “opened” the scoring in the second half with a tap in while Jordi Alba equalized late with a lovely finish. But Barcelona and Lionel Messi were robbed of a clear goal in the first half that surely would’ve altered the flow of the game.

From the opening whistle Barcelona dominated possession, pinning the hosts deep almost immediately. But Valencia defended excellently and didn’t allow an inch to the visitors. Barcelona seemed to be inching closer, but inside the 25-yard-line there was almost no space whatsoever, and apart from a powerful long-range shot from Paulinho that warmed the right palm of goalkeeper Neto Barcelona had nothing to show for.

Valencia weathered the early storm and countered with a couple decent looking attacks, but Barcelona’s defense, which saw Thomas Vermaelen replace the suspended Gerard Pique, stood tall. While Marc-Andre ter Stegen didn’t have to make a save in the early going, Valencia quickly showed they are a dangerous team in attack. On the other end of the pitch, Neto had to make his second save in the 10th minute, with Ivan Rakitić firing from distance, but the Brazilian was perfectly positioned.

Valencia were seemingly content to allow Barcelona majority of ball possession while they themselves would wait for a chance on the counter attack. But Barcelona did an excellent job controlling the ball and limiting turnovers. And whenever a turnover did happen, the Catalans were quick to pressure the Valencia ball-carrier to create a turnover of their own. Barcelona’s work-ethic was excellent, but so was Valencia’s defensive positioning.

And it was from a turnover deep in Valencia’s area that saw Barcelona take the lead in the 30th minute. Or so it seemed. The quick counter saw Luis Suarez set up Messi on the edge of the area. Messi fired quickly on goal and Neto made a terrible mistake, letting the ball bounce past him, clearly dropping over the goal-line. But while Barcelona players started celebrating, Neto dove back and swatted the ball back in play. Referee Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva waved play on and Valencia went on a counter attack from which they very nearly scored. As if it wasn’t enough that this happened to Barcelona in recent history, the Catalans were robbed of an important goal in an away game once again and no amount of complaining was going to make the referee make the correct call.

Officially still scoreless, Barcelona continued to dominate, but hitting the back of net proved a taller task – because just getting ball across the line is clearly not enough for Barcelona. Just three minutes after taking the lead being robbed, Messi took a shot from a long-range free kick, but Neto made a good save. The Brazilian had to make another good save in the 42nd minute, this one on Suarez as he was played through by Messi. Messi pounced on the rebound, but his shot was blocked.

Barcelona almost completely shut down Valencia after a couple attacks in the opening minutes, but a late counter led Gonçalo Guedes could’ve resulted in a different story, but his back-pass to Simone Zaza was slightly off the mark and the Italian couldn’t get a shot off.

With no added time, the referee whistle for half time at which the two sides where shockingly/controversially still tied at zero. It was arguably one of the best halves Barcelona played all season, but due to the incompetence from those in yellow and black Barcelona had nothing to show for.

Valencia came storming out of gates after the restart, looking to catch Barcelona flat-footed. The hosts quickly pinned Barcelona back and Barcelona struggled to contain their attacks. Zaza came close to (officially) open the scoring in the 51st minute with a shot from the edge of the area, but his try whistled wide of the far post. Barcelona looked to counter the very next minute after a corner kick, but Vermaelen just couldn’t direct the header on goal.

Ter Stegen was really tested for the first time in the 57th minute on a quick counter attack. Guedes was left one-on-one with Umtiti and the Portuguese youngster made easy work of the Frenchman. But ter Stegen was quick off his line to close down the angle and he managed to cover the rebound as well. Barcelona were living dangerously and Valencia managed to break through at the one-hour mark. Guedes and Jose Gaya combined excellently on the left wing and the latter then found Rodrigo Moreno in the middle for the easy tap in and the lead.

Valencia tasted blood and they were suddenly attacking in numbers. Barcelona were also forced to open up more now that they were, despite scoring a legal goal, down 1-0. But Barcelona needed help in attack, and Ernesto Valverde clearly saw that, bringing on Gerard Deulofeu for Rakitić in the 68th minute. Just three minutes later Denis Suarez replaced Iniesta.

But motivated by the goal, Valencia had all the momentum, while Barcelona, after utterly dominating the second best team in Spain for a half that they should’ve ended a goal up, couldn’t get anywhere near Neto. Suarez did get a powerful shot on goal in the 76th minute but Neto was there to make the save.

Barcelona made their last substitution in the 80th minute, as Nelson Semedo made way for Aleix Vidal. Despite struggling against a very compact Valencia side in the second half, Barcelona didn’t give up and the Catalans were rewarded for their perseverance in the 82nd minute. Messi sent a stunning over the top ball to the onrushing Alba on the left wing who acrobatically managed to not only make contact with the ball but also beat Neto. The ball also touched the back of the net, making the goal official.

Barcelona were pushing for the deserved winner but time was running out. Four minutes were added on but while Barcelona looked to attack, it was the hosts who had two excellent chances to win the game, but substitute Andreas Pereira and Zaza both missed the target on the counter attack. The final whistle came moments after Zaza’s shot, ending the game with a one-all draw.

While on paper that is not a bad result for Barcelona, nobody knows how this game would’ve unfolded had the referees call the game the way the rulebook says it should be called. But the Catalans will have no time to dwell on the controversy as on the 29th of November Real Murcia comes to visit the Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey.

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