Barcelona defeated Valencia 3-2, with Lionel Messi missing a penalty but scoring twice to keep the most thrilling LaLiga title race in years alive. Gabriel Paulista, a former Arsenal defender, put the hosts ahead early in the second half.
Messi, on the other hand, scored either side of an Antoine Griezmann goal to turn the game around.
Carlos Soler’s superb late strike set up a tense finish, but Valencia were unable to equalize,
and Barcelona maintained their pressure on league leaders Atletico Madrid ahead of their match at the Nou Camp next weekend.
Ronald Koeman’s side knew they needed to win at the Mestalla after a shock home loss to Granada in midweek.
Valencia came into the match undefeated in eight home matches, despite their lowly league status
(they are now 14th).
At the Mestalla, Koeman started a two-match touchline ban after being sent off during Granada’s loss.
He reshuffled his staff four times.In defense, Ronald Araujo and Clement Lenglet replaced Oscar Mingueza and Samuel Umtiti, while in midfield,
Sergino Dest and 18-year-old Pedri replaced Sergi Roberto and Ilaix Moriba.Barcelona started well,
with Pedri sending a right-footed shot narrowly wide after a sublime pass involving Frenkie De Jong, Griezmann, and others.
Before the hosts challenged for the first time, Jasper Cillessen made a fine close range save to deny Araujo.
Goncalo Guedes teed up Jose Gaya, who clipped his effort just wide after a fast counter-attack caught Barcelona off guard.
Barcelona ended the goalless first half on the offensive, with Messi going close with a free-kick from the edge of the box just before halftime.
After the restart, the momentum turned the other way when Marc-Andre ter Stegen
had to block a Guedes shot with his foot before Valencia took the lead after 50 minutes.
Gabriel headed the ball into an empty net after Ter Stegen made a mess of coming to claim a corner.
Thierry Correia had a chance to score a fast second goal, but his shot went high and wide with only the goalkeeper to beat.
It was a costly error, as the visitors scored three goals in the first 12 minutes to take command of the game.
After Cillessen saved his penalty, Messi leveled the score after 57 minutes,
turning the ball home following a scramble inside the net.
Griezmann responded quicker than the Valencia defenders to poke the ball home after Cillessen had saved De Jong’s low header with another great save.
As the Catalan giants appeared to be coasting, Messi scored a free kick in the 69th minute.
In the 83rd minute, Soler’s superb 35-yard strike reached the top left corner of the net,
giving Koeman’s side a nervy finish to the game.
Valencia, on the other hand, were unable to find an equalizer, and Barcelona resumed their winning ways.
They are now in third place in the league,
tied on points with Real Madrid and two points behind table-toppers Atletico Madrid.