Lionel Messi vs Valencia: Messi salvages a vital away point for Barcelona
Barcelona travelled to the Mestalla to face Valencia on Sunday, well aware that only a win would put them back at the top of LaLiga. Real Madrid’s defeat on Saturday highlighted the fact that the LaLiga has become increasingly unpredictable this season. Valverde was wary of his opponents and made just one change to the team that defeated Tottenham Hotspur midweek in the Champions League, with Vermaelen replacing Lenglet to partner Pique at the heart of the Barcelona defence. However, Barcelona were in for a rude shock at the very start of the game.
Valencia won a corner in the first minute and Pique was culpable of not clearing the corner properly. His glancing header fell to Garay in the back post and the Argentinean had an easy tap-in. Valencia were 1-0 up in the 2nd minute of the game and the roof had blown off the Mestalla as the celebrating fans kept egging their players on.
Valencia almost hit Barcelona again, with Batshuayi and Kondogbia both inches away from scoring. The Catalans were on the back foot and looked set for a long night. However, they slowly made their return to the game, thanks in part to their talismanic captain Lionel Messi.
In the 21st minute, the Argentinean hit a low shot that did not cause Neto in the Valencia goal any trouble, but it was just a hint of the action about to unfold. Two minutes later, Barcelona finally had their breakthrough. Messi initiated the attack and exchanged an accurate one-two with Suarez right at the edge of the box.
The Uruguayan laid the ball down perfectly for his on-rushing skipper and Messi made no mistake. He hit a precise first-time shot, low to the right of the goal and Neto had no chance. Barcelona were level and back into the game.
From then on, it was Barcelona who piled on the pressure on their opponents, with Valencia breaking off on the odd attack once in a while. The second half was a bit more open, however, none of the teams found the winner. The game ended 1-1, with Barcelona earning their 3rd draw of the season so far.
However, it was a decent result for the Catalans away from home and even in the draw, the big bonus was that Lionel Messi continued his fantastic start to the season.
The Barcelona skipper scored his 11th goal of the season from 11 games in all competitions. In the La Liga, he has already scored 6 goals from 8 games. Valencia have always been one of his favourite opponents, as he has now scored 25 goals in 31 games in all competitions against them, including 22 goals from 25 games in the La Liga.
On Sunday, Messi had 6 shots, with 4 of them on target. He attempted to set up Suarez and Coutinho with long balls and the Valencia defence was continuously troubled by him. Messi twisted, turned, spread the ball and even took on the defence on his own a couple of times. He equalized and then kept coming back for the winner, however, luck seemed to elude him on the night.
Even though he could not inspire them to a win, Lionel Messi managed to salvage a vital away point for his team. Barcelona remain second before the international break, a point away from league leaders Sevilla.