Barça 2–2 Valencia: A Val-iant Draw!

Barça 2–2 Valencia: A Val-iant Draw!

Leo Messi scores twice as first-place Barça battle back from 2-0, first-half deficit to earn a tie and provisionally extend their lead at the top of the table

CAMP NOU, Barcelona — Lionel Messi scored once in each half as Futbol Club Barcelona came back from two goals down after just 32 minutes of play to earn a 2-2 draw with Valencia on Saturday evening in La Liga.

The tie hands first-place Barça a single point and provisionally extends their lead at the top of the league standings to five points over Atlético Madrid, who visit Real Betis on Sunday.

Saturday’s draw was the second of the season between Barça and Valencia — who drew 1-1 at the Mestalla back in October — and barring a meeting in the final of the Copa del Rey, neither will be able to claim a head-to-head win against the other this season.

Valencia came out attacking at Camp Nou, and nearly took the lead before the game was three minutes old, when a double opportunity was thwarted first by Barça goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen, who stoned Dani Parejo from point blank range, before Denis Cheryshev fired the rebound off the post.

But Barça — led by Carles Aleñá, Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal in the midfield — clamped down on Valencia and by the quarter hour mark, the visitors were back on their heels.

With the blaugrana midfielders bolstered by Nélson Semedo on the right flank and the omnipresent Messi roaming seemingly everywhere, Valencia barely sniffed Barça’s final third for long stretches of the first half.

As Barça pressed deeper on attack, Messi sent a shot just wide, while Philippe Coutinho and Sergi Roberto both enjoyed solid opportunities that were saved by Valencia goalkeeper Neto.

But despite Barça’s 72%-28% lead in possession, the visitors broke through first. In the 22nd minute, a Valencia counterattack ended with Kevin Gameiro slotting in past Ter Stegen to give Los Che a 1–0 lead.

And 10 minutes later, Dani Parejo put Valencia up 2-0 from the penalty spot, after Sergi Roberto was cautioned for a foul in the box, as he and Daniel Wass were tussling for a lob into the area.

Barça knew they had to regroup fast, and they did, pulling a goal back in the 37th — twice.

On a scramble in the Valencia area, Semedo was tripped up by a defender, and Messi picked up the loose ball and fired into the net. But as Camp Nou exploded to cheer Messi’s goal, the players looked up to see the referee pointing to the spot. No advantage was conceded on the play, and the VAR confirmed the foul, giving the Catalans a spot kick. Messi took that too, and easily fooled Neto on the kick to cut the Che lead in half, 2-1.

Barça went into the dressing room down a goal, but with all the momentum. After the break, however, the scoreboard didn’t budge again until almost midway through the second half.

Then, with Barça attacking in the 64th, Vidal fed Messi, who was lurking just outside the area. But where the Argentinian maestro usually dribbles in closer before pulling the trigger, he didn’t hesitate, firing a low shot that curled around a thicket of defenders and into the bottom left corner, with the screened Neto diving a split second too late to get a hand on it.

Barça’s next match comes back at Camp Nou on Wednesday night, when they face Real Madrid in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals. Kickoff is at 9.00pm CET.

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