Barcelona extended their “impressive” winless streak to four games with a one-all draw against Valencia at Mestalla. Ezequiel Garay opened the scoring very early before Lionel Messi set the final score midway through the first half. Even with Barcelona dominating the ball, Valencia were the more dangerous team, but ultimately the two sides had to share the spoils.
Barcelona could not have started the game any worse, with Garay sending Valencia in front not even two minutes from kickoff. The hosts earned an early corner kick that was swung in and should’ve been cleared not by one Barcelona defender but two. All Thomas Vermaelen and Gerard Pique were able to manage were slight redirections which resulted in a perfect pass to the far post where Garay couldn’t miss from a yard out.
The hosts continued to threaten, creating two good chances over the next four minutes, but Michy Batshuayi and Geoffrey Kondogbia both fired shots that just barely missed the target. Barcelona on the other hand could do very little right. Their defending was pretty much atrocious, while in attack the Catalans harmlessly passed the ball around about 35-yards from goal.
Batshuayi fired again on goal 12 minute in, with ter Stegen making a good save, but the most disconcerting aspect was the ease with which Valencia were creating chances. Neither of the two central defenders was able to be found in a good spot on any of the Valencia attacks.
Midway through the first half Barcelona appeared to have finally gotten over the shock of the early goal as there was finally some encouraging movement in attack for the Catalans. The defense also tightened up just a bit, giving ter Stegen’s heart rate an opportunity to drop. And as soon as Barcelona started to show some life the game was tied at one. Messi played a lovely one-two with Luis Suarez, with the initial pass going through the legs of Kondogbia. Messi received the ball back about 25-yards from goal and from there he wasted no time in getting a shot on goal. Showing immaculate accuracy, Messi’s shot went just inside Neto’s left post for the equalizer.
Now it was Valencia’s turn to be a bit shell-shocked. With their early chances, the fact that the game was tied at one at this point was a big disappointment for the hosts. But now Barcelona were pressing and Valencia were hardly getting a sniff of the ball, and even when they did they quickly turned it over. But even though the Catalans were now controlling the ball, to say Barcelona were creating chances would be a stretch. Barcelona were often buzzing around the area, but that buzzing usually happened at least 30-yards from Neto.
While it has not often been the case this season, Barcelona regularly tried to attack down both wings where Jordi Alba and Nelson Semedo were very active, but neither could create much. Valencia came close to retaking the lead in the 39th minute when on a quick counter Pique allowed too much space to Kevin Gameiro to send a cross into the danger area, but there Semedo was able to make a crucial block on Denis Cheryshev’s shot.
Barcelona were again looking very lively in the dying minutes of the first half, but Valencia pulled everybody deep and against a set defense Barcelona couldn’t create anything, leaving referee José Luis González González to blow for halftime after two minutes of added time.
Both manager continued with the same lineups they ended the first half with. Like in the first half, Valencia looked to quickly strike once again, creating a good look for Cheryshev just two minutes in, but the Russian missed the mark from 20-yards. Barcelona slowly started to retake control of the midfield once again, but chance-creation continued to prove nearly impossible. Messi managed to fire Barcelona’s first shot of the second half in the 55th minute – from a very tough angle – but otherwise Valencia were able to hold Barcelona to the outside.
In the second half Barcelona were having surprisingly many turnovers, something numerous players were guilty off, from Arthur and Pique to the usually sure-footed Sergio Busquets. This all added to Barcelona’s problems in attacks as oftentimes Barcelona lost the ball without much pressure leading to dangerous counter attacks for the hosts. Valencia looked dangerous whenever they crossed the midfield line, something that couldn’t be said about Barcelona.
Barcelona finally created their first really good chance of the game with some nice passing in the 75th minute, but inside the area Coutinho was disposed from behind when he probably should’ve fired on goal well before all those extra touches. It was arguably the first play in which a couple Barcelona players managed to show some creativity.
Ernesto Valverde finally made his first substitution in the 83rd minute, four minutes after Valencia already made all three of theirs. Dembele, surprisingly, replaced Philippe Coutinho who even though he had a very quiet game probably could’ve been a useful player when going for the win. Four minutes later Arthur made way for Rafinha.
Barcelona continued to attack, but even with a 71% possession advantage the Catalans could not find any space to get through to Neto. Endless passes made no dent into Valencia’s eight-man defensive line and with just two minutes added on, Barcelona ran out of time. With this Barcelona showing one has to wonder if even another 30 minutes would’ve been enough for Barcelona to break through.
With the point Barcelona went into a two-way tie for second place with Atletico Madrid, one point behind Sevilla. The international break is up next.