In a frustrating performance at home Barcelona dropped two points against Valencia to end their eight-game winning run. The visitors built a two goal lead in the first half through Kevin Gameiro and Daniel Parejo, but a Lionel Messi brace, with a goal in each half, earned Barcelona a well-deserved point.
Rotations continued for Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona – one out of necessity as Sergio Busquets picked up a yellow card suspension. In defense both Nelson Semedo and Sergi Roberto started alongside Gerard Pique and Thomas Vermaelen. Carles Alena, Ivan Rakitić and Arturo Vidal formed a midfield trio while there weren’t any surprises in the front three.
Barcelona’s makeshift defense was quickly tested as Parejo tried his luck from 20-yards out, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen made the save. Moments later Valencia were in attack again and Parejo was once again in action, and this time ter Stegen had to showcase all of his talent to keep the game scoreless. The visitors would have another chance off the rebound, but Denis Cheryshev was denied by the far post.
After surviving the early onslaught, Barcelona were starting to show their bite in attack, but they didn’t test Neto for the first until Lionel Messi fired a free kick of goal that was rather easily held. Five minutes later Neto had to show all of his talents, stopping Philippe Coutinho’s excellent try with a panther-like save. Barcelona’s press continued and Valencia’s defense had plenty of work with the Blaugrana attackers.
But amid Barcelona’s mounting pressure, and after an uncalled foul on Messi, Velancia launched a quick counter attack that saw the visitors take the lead. Once again the Barcelona defense was exposed down the Vermaelen/Roberto side and Gameiro sent Valencia into the lead.
The hosts almost replied in the 27th minute after a Coutinho pass was redirected by Ezequiel Garay, but Neto made a brilliant save. While the Catalans quickly created the aforementioned chance, the hosts clearly were shocked by the allowed goal. And in the 33rd minute the hole Barcelona were in became even greater. Once again Roberto lost his man and trying to make up for the mistake he brought down Daniel Wass inside the area for a penalty kick. Parejo stepped up and confidently fired into the back of the net to double Valencia’s lead.
Five minutes later Barcelona had a glorious chance to bring the game within one after Semedo won a penalty kick for the home-side. Messi stepped up to take and confidently caught Neto on the wrong foot to halve Valencia’s lead. Barcelona looked to tie the game up before the halftime break and they came within inches when in the 44th minute Roberto looked to make up for some of his mistakes, but he was denied by the post. The very next minute a fabulous pass from Rakitić found Messi behind the line, but the Argentine’s first-touch shot flew over the bar.
Jordi Alba entered play after the break, but he didn’t replace Roberto, who had a forgettable first half – albeit at left-back. Instead Alba took Semedo’s spot on the pitch, resulting in Roberto switching sides. Not even a minute into the second half Barcelona were in action again, with Alena setting up Messi after a deep turnover, but Messi’s 18-yards shot was excellently saved by Neto. Neto would be called into action again in the 53rd minute as he once again made a strong save, this time on Alena. The very next minute the post was rattling once again, as Roberto again struck it though this it was from an impossible angle.
Barcelona’s attacks were relentless, but getting a good look on goal proved difficult – and even when a good look was available, which was mostly from distance, Neto was there to make the save. However, even though Barcelona were constantly on the offensive, Valencia remained dangerous on the counter, and at the one hour mark ter Stegen had to make a very good stop to keep Barcelona within striking distance. Three minutes later Rodrigo tried to connect with Cheryshev’s cross, but his close range finish went wide.
Barcelona quickly made Valencia pay for the miss as on the very next attack Vidal laid the ball off to Messi who found a lane between three defenders to find the back of the net from 20-yards out. In the 65th minute Valverde brought on reinforcements into the midfield where Arthur replaced the lively Alena.
In the 70th minute Messi rushed to the sidelines to receive some treatment on what appeared the hamstring area after receiving a knee to that area. The Argentine was able to return, but he didn’t appear to be quite 100%. Barcelona’s attacks continued though with less urgency than when the Catalans were down by a goal. Valencia also maintained their ambition for an unlikely win at the Camp Nou as the visitors mounted a strong press around the 80th minute, pinning Barcelona deep and threatening ter Stegen on a couple occasions. Their press was so strong that for a roughly five minute stretch Barcelona struggled to get any possession time.
With six minutes left in regulation Valverde made his last substitution, replacing Coutinho with Malcom. The tough midweek battle against Sevilla was starting to show as Barcelona’s movement started to lack pace, but the addition of Malcom brought some life back into their attacking play. Barcelona were chasing the result and numerous instances of time-wasting by Valencia, especially the goalkeeper, shockingly only two minutes were added on. They went by without much fuss and Barcelona offered a chance to the two biggest clubs from Madrid to make up some ground tomorrow. Speaking of clubs from Madrid, next up, Copa del Rey El Clasico on Wednesday.