Barcelona will finish the weekend inside the La Liga Top 4 for the third straight week thanks to a sensational 4-1 win away to Valencia at Mestalla. Barça played a near flawless first half, earned a three-goal lead, then did an excellent job of managing the second half to pick up all three points at one of the toughest grounds in the country. What a victory.
Not even the most optimist Barça fan could have hoped for the first half we saw at Mestalla. Barça were quite simply breathtaking in the opening 45 minutes, passing their way out of Valencia’s high press with ease and moving the ball quickly from side to side to find spaces and create chances.
The entire front six was on point, with the three midfielders passing the ball well and making timely runs in behind the defense and the front three constantly confusing the Valencia backline with their movement.
Barça were also ruthless in front of goal, scoring three goals with their only three shots of the half: the first goal came on a perfect long ball by Jordi Alba and a glorious finish by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for his debut Barça goal; the second came on another brilliant pass by Alba to find Ousmane Dembélé, and the Frenchman gave Frenkie De Jong a tap-in; and the third came after a sensational team move with a beautiful pass by Dembélé, an assist for Gavi and a tap-in for Aubameyang.
Valencia had their moments in the half but were never truly threatening, although they did have two goals disallowed by VAR: José Gayà was offside when he attempted a cross that was badly fumbled by Marc-André ter Stegen for an ugly own goal, and the ball went out of play at the start of a move that ended with a goal for Carlos Soler.
But neither counted, and Barça headed into the halftime break with a three-goal lead thanks to an amazing performance. Could they finish the job in the second half?
No one thought Valencia would just lay down and concede defeat at halftime, and the home team came out with plenty of intensity and taking the game to Barça. They got an early goal on a header by Soler that gave them a bit of hope, but Pedri came off the bench and fired a rocket into the top corner to restore Barça’s three-goal lead with half an hour to go.
José Bordalás’ team still refused to give up and continued to go forward, and they had a couple of good chances but Ter Stegen was alert and avoided conceding a second. Barça did a marvelous job in the final 15 minutes of keeping the ball and running out the clock, and the final whistle came to confirm the Blaugrana victory.
This is without a doubt the best performance of the season for Barça, and the best of Xavi’s tenure as well. It was a complete game at a very tough stadium to play and a serious statement about Barça’s intentions of finishing in the Top 4. Well done, boys!
Valencia: Mamardashvili; Foulquier, Diakhaby, Alderete, Gayà (Lato 66’); Soler, Guillamón (Gómez 46’), Moriba (Racic 66’), Gil; Duro, Guedes
Goal: Soler (52’)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Dest, Araujo, Eric (Mingueza 46’), Alba; Gavi (Adama 81’), Busquets, F. De Jong (Pedri 60’); Dembélé (Nico 71’), Aubameyang (L. De Jong 81’), Ferran
Goals: Aubameyang (23’, 38’), F. De Jong (32’), Pedri (63’)