A Lionel Messi brace helped Barcelona come from behind to beat Valencia 3-2 as the Catalans kept up with the two Madrid clubs at the top of La Liga.
Ronald Koeman’s side travelled to Mestalla having watched Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid claim victories to maintain their title hopes and after falling behind in the second half this was an emphatic response.
Barca started the match on top and could have gone ahead within the first three minutes when Pedri fired wide from inside the box. Ronald Araujo was also presented with a golden opportunity from a Lionel Messi freekick, but couldn’t beat Jasper Cillessen.
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Despite the visitors’ dominance it was Valencia who took the lead when Gabriel Paulistra crept around the back of Marc-Andre ter Stegen and the Barcelona defence to head into the gaping net.
The response from Barcelona was emphatic who quickly equalised through Messi who bundled home from close range after he’d had a spot kick saved by Cillessen. And Antoine Griezmann put Barca in front with an opportunistic finish.
Messi scored his second, and Barcelona’s third, of the night with a trademark freekick effort into the Valencia net. Carlos Soler struck the goal of the game with six minutes left, thundering home a shot from 25 yards, to give Valencia hope, but there wasn’t to be a second comeback.
The result keeps Barca in the thick of the La Liga title race, with just two points between them and pace-setters Atletico Madrid at the top of the table.

Antoine Griezmann (L) celebrates

Image credit: Getty Images

TALKING POINT - La Liga title race set for momentous finale

Not in living memory has there been a La Liga title race as compelling as this one. With just four games left of the 2020/21 campaign, only two points separate Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid. Sevilla can keep up with the rest with a win over Athletic Club on Monday evening. In that case, there would be just three points between Spain’s top four. Next weekend, all four will face either other - Barcelona v Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid v Sevilla. This title race is set for a momentous finale.

MAN OF THE MATCH - Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona)

Griezmann and Messi might have delivered the goals to keep Barcelona in the thick of the La Liga title race, but Frenkie de Jong was the driving force behind the win. The Dutchman has been in exceptional form of late and this performance demonstrated all that he offers Barca. De Jong was highly effective both in his protection of the back four and in making runs into the opposition box. Koeman couldn’t have done without him.

PLAYER RATINGS

Valencia - Cillessen 7, Thierry 6, Gabriel 7, Guillamon 5, Lato 4, Gaya 5, Racic 6, Wass 6, Soler 7, Guedes 5, Gomez 4. Subs - Gamiero 4, Diakhaby 4, Oliva 4.
Barcelona - Ter Stegen 5, Araujo 6, Pique 6, Lenglet 5, Dest 6, Pedri 6, Busquets 6, De Jong 8, Alba 6, Griezmann 8, Messi 8. Subs - Roberto 5, Ilaix 6.

KEY MOMENTS

3’ PEDRI... wide! That probably should have been the opening goal with Griezmann and de Jong setting up the shooting opportunity for Pedri, but the teenager sends his effort wide!
12’ Big chance for Araujo! Messi's cross into the middle from the freekick was a dangerous one, Araujo made the connection, but Cillessen pulls off the reflex save to deny the Barca man!
50’ GOAL! Valencia 1-0 Barcelona: The deadlock has been broken and it's Valencia who have found it! Ter Stegen thinks he was blocked at the corner kick, but there was nothing in that and Gabriel drifted around the back to head into the back of the gaping Barca net!
58’ PENALTY KICK TO BARCELONA! Lato handles the ball inside the area and the referee points to the spot.
58’ GOAL! Valencia 1-1 Barcelona: Messi sees his spot kick saved by Cillessen, the rebound is played back into the middle by Busquets, Pedri has a shot saved on the line by Gabriel and Messi is on hand to bundle it into the back of the net from very close range!
63’ GOAL! Valencia 1-2 Barcelona: It's in the back of the Valencia net and Barcelona have turned this one around! De Jong got on the end of a cross to the back post and forced the same from Cillessen. Griezmann was on hand to turn home the shot from close range!
69’ GOAL! Valencia 1-3 Barcelona: A Messi special! The 33-year-old bends his freekick over the Valencia wall and into the back of the net despite the best efforts of the defenders back on the line! Barcelona now have a two-goal advantage in this crucial match.
84’ GOAL! Valencia 2-3 Barcelona: What an incredible strike and Valencia are still in this game! The space opened up for Soler 25 yards out from goal and he thundered an effort past ter Stegen from distance! Wow. Sensational stuff from the talented Valencia midfielder.

KEY STATS

  • Lionel Messi scored his 50th direct freekick for Barcelona in all competitions with his first coming against Valencia.
  • Messi (35) & Pedri (34) made nine passes (69) than all Valencia's players combined (60) in the first half.
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