Barcelona have now gone four games without a win but are still top of La Liga thanks to a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Valencia at the Mestalla. After a bad start and a poor goal conceded, the Blaugrana dominated the rest of the game and deserved to score more than just one goal, but Lionel Messi was the only one who could beat a very strong Valencia defense and gave Barça what could be a giant point later in the season.
Barça could not have started the game any worse, with Ezequiel Garay scoring an easy tap-in from a corner just two minutes into the first half. It could have been 3-0 after just 10 minutes if Geoffrey Kondogbia and Michy Batshuayi had scored two great chances, but Barça dodged two big bullets early on.
After a poor start Barça improved a lot, with Arthur once again shining in midfield. The young Brazilian ran the show in the center of the park and forced both teams to play the game at the pace he wanted, and the Blaugrana started to dominate. Lionel Messi, Philippe Coutinho, Luis Suárez and Jordi Alba were always close and trying to combine with each other, and there were a few good opportunites created between those four.
And it was a Messi-Suárez combination that led to the equalizer, when Leo made a one-two with his strike partner and fired a rocket into the bottom corner to make it 1-1. Barça would dominate the rest of the half, but the Valencia defense was very solid and compact and no real scoring chances were made after the Barça goal.
At halftime, Barça were the dominant attacking force, but their bad defensive performance in the early moments meant any team could walk out the winner in the second half.
Barça continued to be on the front foot in the second half, limiting Valencia’s counter attacks and camping themselves in the opponent’s half. The passing was patient and intricate, with Arthur once again at the heart of every good move made by Barça. But the Valencia defense continued to be resilient and well organized, and it was really hard for the Blaugrana to find spaces.
As we entered the final five minutes and Ousmane Dembélé came on to replace an exhausted Coutinho, it was starting to become evident we were headed for a draw at Mestalla, despite Barça’s best efforts to score a winner. The final whistle did come and no more goals were scored, with Barça and Valencia sharing the spoils after a very good game.
Four games without a win in La Liga is bad, but this performance was great. Valencia deserve immense credit for how well they defended, and Barça deserve credit for how well they played football. This is what these two do best, why they’re two of the best teams in Spain, and why both deserved a point tonight.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Piqué, Vermaelen, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Arthur (Rafinha); Messi, Suárez, Coutinho (Dembélé)
Goal: Messi (23’)
Valencia: Neto; Piccini, Garay, Gabriel, Gayà; Soler, Parejo, Kondogbia (Coquelin), Guedes (Cheryshev); Gameiro (Rodrigo), Batshuayi
Goal: Garay (2’)