Messi Nets Twice in Barca Turnaround Over Valencia

Messi
Soccer Football – La Liga Santander – Valencia v FC Barcelona – Mestalla, Valencia, Spain – May 2, 2021 Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in action REUTERS/Pablo Morano

VALENCIA ⸺ Lionel Messi led Barcelona to a quick-fire comeback to win 3-2 at Valencia on Sunday and keep the pressure on La Liga title rivals Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.

Barca fell behind in the 50th minute when Valencia defender Gabriel Paulista headed into an empty net from a corner after keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen had stumbled to the ground in his attempt to come for the ball.

The Catalans, who had blown the chance to go top of the league with a shock 2-1 defeat at home by Granada on Thursday, reacted well to going behind and soon won a penalty thanks to a handball from Valencia’s Toni Lato.

Soccer Football – La Liga Santander – FC Barcelona v Granada – Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain – April 29, 2021 Barcelona’s Lionel Messi celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates REUTERS/Albert Gea

Messi saw his spot-kick saved by former teammate Jasper Cillessen but Valencia failed to clear the danger and the Argentine followed up to score on the second rebound in the 57th minute.

Antoine Griezmann gave Barca the lead six minutes later, also netting on the rebound after Cillessen could only parry a header from Frenkie de Jong.

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Messi looked to have clinched the points in the 69th when he fired a freekick in off the post to score his 28th league goal of the season but Valencia got back into contention out of nowhere when midfielder Carlos Soler scored with an unstoppable strike from long range in the 83rd. 

The hosts, who had held Barca to a 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou in December, kept the Catalans on their toes for the final few minutes and had a couple of half chances to equalise but Ronald Koeman’s side clung on for the win.

Barca are third on 74 points with four games remaining, level with second-placed Real Madrid and two behind leaders Atletico Madrid after both sides won on Saturday. Fourth-placed Sevilla, on 70, host Athletic Bilbao on Monday.

Soccer Football – La Liga Santander – Valencia v FC Barcelona – Mestalla, Valencia, Spain – May 2, 2021 Barcelona’s Lionel Messi celebrates with teammates after the match REUTERS/Pablo Morano

Next up for Barca is a potentially decisive match at home to Atletico in a huge weekend for the title race that also includes Real hosting Sevilla.

“We know that we won’t have any easy games until the end of the season but we got the job done after the unexpected defeat to Granada. We competed today and are going to keep competing,” said Barca defender Gerard Pique. 

“Today we showed we’re still in the fight, that was what we wanted to do at the start of the season and it’s to our credit that we’re still in it.”

Reporting by Richard MartinEditing by Christian Radnedge; Reuters

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