Valencia 1-1 Barcelona
Barcelona had a chance to take the solo lead at the top of La Liga, but struggling Valencia proved to be a tough nut to crack for the Catalans.
After falling behind Marcelino’s charges early, Messi scored midway through the first half to bring Barca back into the game. However, the Argentine’s effort was not enough to spark a turnaround as they failed to break down the Valencia defence.
In the end, Barca had to share the spoils, extending their winless skid in the Spanish top flight to four games and dropping them to second in the table—behind surprise league leaders Sevilla.
Highlights of the game
Valencia weren’t expected to put up a fight against the reigning league champions. After all, they struggled in their opening six games and only got their first win of the campaign in Real Sociedad last month.
The La Liga 2018 odds at us even put them as overwhelming underdogs heading into this fixture, with Ernesto Valverde’s mighty Catalans fresh from a 4-2 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League.
Nonetheless, Los Che made no sense of the pre-match predictions and smashed the odds as they went ahead less than 120 seconds into the game.
Valencia took advantage of some woeful defending—and another Gerard Pique error—to break the deadlock. Ezequiel Garay opened the scoring for the hosts, tapping in from a Dani Parejo corner kick after Pique messed his attempt to clear the ball.
Marcelino’s men almost doubled their lead too when, six minutes after the opener, on-loan Chelsea forward Michy Batshuayi forced Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen into a fine save. Geoffrey Kondogbia had a chance for Valencia as well, though to no avail.
Unfortunately for the home team, Goncalo Guedes’ injury changed the flow of the game. Guedes had a bright start for Valencia and caused plenty of problems for Barca in the midfield, but he suffered what appeared to be a knee injury in the 12th minute and was immediately replaced by Russian star Denis Cheryshev.
Barca exploited the loss of an important offensive piece for Valencia, and 11 minutes later, they found the equaliser they were looking for.
Messi linked up well with Luis Suarez, and a quick one-two between the strikers resulted to a fine Messi goal from 20 yards. The Argentine maestro smashed a powerful low drive into the bottom left corner, leaving Valencia keeper Neto no chance at all.
Barcelona dictated the game for the most part, including in the second half. But the best opportunities fell on Valencia who were unlucky not to add more to their tally.
Cheryshev and Kevin Gameiro both had legitimate shots at putting Valencia ahead again, but the former’s effort was denied by Ter Stegen while the latter’s strike sailed over.
Barcelona’s best chance in the payoff period went to Philippe Coutinho when he was left with only the keeper to beat, but the Brazilian playmaker dawdled on the ball far too much, allowing Jose Gaya to stop what would have been an easy shot.
Valencia’s defence, anchored by Gaya, held on to get their sixth stalemate of the campaign and deny Barcelona an easy return to the top.
It’s now four league games without a win for Barcelona, and they have no one to blame but themselves for their slump.
They could have been the headline of La Liga 2018 news right now, but they were wasteful against Valencia. Although they had 76 percent possession, 10 shots and five clear-cut scoring opportunities, they lacked the fire that they showed in the Tottenham match.
Messi—whose goal in the game is his 22nd in 25 matches with Valencia—is also suspect, struggling to get over the defence despite a particularly dominant second half.
Valencia, meanwhile, would still be happy with the result despite their increasing reputation as poor closers. They haven’t won a league game against Barca since 2007, but this result should give them more confidence in their quest to replicate their top-four finish last year.
Barcelona now have time to go back to the drawing board, thanks to the upcoming international break. They will face league-leaders Sevilla when they return, in what should be a thrilling top-of-the-table battle at the Nou Camp.
Sevilla toppled Barca from the top spot after bagging four straight La Liga wins, the latest against Leganes, and their battle in two weeks’ time will be a decider on which team will have the right to sit on the summit for another week.
Valencia, on the other hand, will have another chance to get their second win and climb up the rankings when they visit 18th-placed Leganes after the break.
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