Barcelona remain alive in the race for the La Liga title thanks to a thrilling 3-2 victory away to Valencia at the Mestalla, with a brace from Lionel Messi proving the difference in what was a brilliant game of football. All the goals came in the second half, and Barça needed to come from behind and hold on to the lead to pick up three crucial points against a tough Valencia side.
Barça made a fast start and had a great chance right away, with Pedri just missing the target after a great team move in the opening two minutes. Barça came out with intensity and high pressing, and Valencia struggled to get hold of the ball.
The Blaugrana were quick and smart with their passing and movement, and had success moving the ball in and around the box, but the final ball was lacking and Valencia managed to clear the danger away. The home team had very little joy in the attacking side, but Gayà did manage to get in behind the Barça defense a few times and cause some problems.
In terms of opportunities there were few truly big ones, with Barça having plenty of “almost” moments where players just couldn’t get to the ball in time to turn a half-chance into a good one.
At halftime, a well-played, intense game was goalless but the feeling was that Barça were getting closer and closer to score, and the second half promised to be interesting.
The second half started very badly for Barça, who conceded just five minutes into the period thanks to a free header by Gabriel Paulista from a corner-kick. Barça complained about a foul on Ter Stegen, but VAR confirmed the goal.
The Blaugrana needed a quick response and they got it just seven minutes later after Toni Lato was called for a handball inside the box. Lionel Messi took the penalty and Jasper Cillessen saved it, but Sergio Busquets was quickest to the rebound and after a scramble in the box Messi redeemed himself and found the back of the net for the equalizer.
Just 12 minutes after the equalizer, Barça found themselves 3-1 up after a goal from Antoine Griezmann and a brilliant free-kick by Messi, and the Blaugrana quickly turned a bad situation into a comfortable lead. Valencia still found a way to add drama to the final 10 minutes after Carlos Soler scored a spectacular goal with a 30-yard screamer, and the home team sent everyone forward looking for the equalizer.
Barça did a great job keeping the ball in stoppage time, not allowing Valencia the chance for a late onslaught and the final whistle came to end a brilliant game at the Mestalla. Barça looked out of the title race for about five minutes in the second half, but came roaring back and are still alive ahead of the season-definer against Atlético Madrid next week.
Valencia: Cillessen; Correia, Gabriel, Guillamón (Gameiro 79’), Lato (Diakhaby 64’), Gayà; Soler, Wass, Racic (Oliva 79’); Gómez, Guedes
Goals: Gabriel (50’), Soler (83’)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Araujo, Piqué, Lenglet; Dest (Roberto 75’), De Jong, Busquets, Pedri (Ilaix 75’), Alba; Messi, Griezmann
Goals: Messi (57’, 69’), Griezmann (63’)