Barcelona 4-2 Valencia: Lionel Messi strikes twice

The Argentine star's goal helped prove the difference as Barcelona maintained the pressure on La Liga leaders Real Madrid
  • Valencia went ahead through Eliaquim Mangala in the 29th minute on Sunday night at the Nou Camp
  • Luis Suarez levelled the score before Lionel Messi put Barcelona ahead from the penalty spot 
  • Mangala was sent off for bringing down Suarez before Messi put the hosts 2-1 ahead in front of home fans
  • However, Munir El Haddadi then surprisingly equalised for Valencia just moments later
  • Messi grabbed his second goal of the game before Andre Gomes netted Barcelona's fourth of the night

Lionel Messi made it 41 goals in 40 games for Barcelona in all competitions this season as they beat Valencia to move back to within two points of La Liga leaders Real Madrid.

It's the eight consecutive season he has scored 40 and there was a helping hand from Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala as he did it.

Mangala had given Valencia a shock lead with a header from a corner but he then conceded a penalty – which Messi scored – and got sent off, as Barcelona came back to win the game.

Lionel Messi celebrates with team-mate Luis Suarez after scoring his second goal of the La Liga match on Sunday

Lionel Messi celebrates with team-mate Luis Suarez after scoring his second goal of the La Liga match on Sunday

The Argentine star's goal helped prove the difference as Barcelona maintained the pressure on La Liga leaders Real Madrid

The Argentine star's goal helped prove the difference as Barcelona maintained the pressure on La Liga leaders Real Madrid

Eliaquim Mangala receives his marching orders from the referee after bringing down  Uruguayan striker Suarez 

Eliaquim Mangala receives his marching orders from the referee after bringing down Uruguayan striker Suarez 

The French defender pictured tugging back Suarez to give Barcelona a penalty with the scoreline level

The French defender pictured tugging back Suarez to give Barcelona a penalty with the scoreline level

MATCH FACTS

Barcelona (3-4-3): Ter Stegen; Pique; Rakitic (Roberto 65); Busquets; Iniesta; Suarez; Messi; Neymar; Rafinha (Gomes 74); Mascherano; Umtiti 

Scorers: Suarez 35, Messi 45, 52, Gomes 89

Booked: Iniesta, Gomes, Messi 

Valencia (4-3-3): Alves; Gaya; Mangala; Garay; Montoya; Enzo Perez; Parejo; Carlos Soler; Orellana (Abdennour 45); Cancelo (Bakkali 84); Munir (Zaza 73)

Scorers: Mangala 29, Munir 45+1

Booked: Perez, Mangala, Parejo, Montoya

Red: Mangala  

Messi had a rare day off last weekend as Barcelona were beaten by Deportivo but he was back to his best and even forced a yellow card, meaning he'll miss the team's next game against Granada and not the tougher encounter with Sevilla four days later.

Messi had Barcelona's first chance but Fabian Orellana hooked his goalbound shot off the line. Luis Suarez had unselfishly teed Messi up after doing well to keep Samuel Umtiti's pass in play. Suarez was clearly up for this one – less switched on was Neymar.

Not for the first time in his Barcelona career has he spent a couple of minutes off the pitch changing his boots. Barca might have scored had he been on – Messi and Suarez just missing that extra man as they attacked Diego Alves' goal.

Neymar trotted back on just as Marc-Andre ter Stegen got down smartly to his left to push away a fierce drive from Carlos Soler after Gerard Pique had cleared acrobatically instead of effectively.

Neymar's next contribution was to so nearly win a penalty. Referee Alejandro Hernandez waved away appeals both for the spot-kick and calls from Valencia players to book the forward for diving. Replays showed that there had been contact with Ezequiel Garay but Neymar had looked for it by dangling his leg between those of the defender.

Munir El Haddadi was next to go close. He timed his run brilliantly ghosting away from Pique and then headed himself into space and clear but Ter Stegen came out and the ball was deflected wide for a corner. It was a bad miss from the on-loan Barcelona forward but it led to the opening goal.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta takes a tumble during the La Liga fixture with Valencia on Sunday night 

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta takes a tumble during the La Liga fixture with Valencia on Sunday night 

Munir El Haddadi refuses to celebrate against his former club after levelling the score at 2-2 in Barcelona

Munir El Haddadi refuses to celebrate against his former club after levelling the score at 2-2 in Barcelona

Messi confidently converted from the penalty spot to put Luis Enrique's side 2-1 up on the weekend

Messi confidently converted from the penalty spot to put Luis Enrique's side 2-1 up on the weekend

Messi is embraced by his fellow Barcelona forward Suarez after scoring a vital goal in the race to win the La Liga title 

Messi is embraced by his fellow Barcelona forward Suarez after scoring a vital goal in the race to win the La Liga title 

The corner came in from the right and Mangala rose above Sergio Busquets to head into the far corner past a helpless Ter Stegen.

Leicester would have had some fun with Barcelona at set-pieces had they drawn them in the Champions League quarter-finals. Sergio Busquets was up against Mangala and there was only ever going to be one winner. It was the third successive goal conceded by Barcelona from a set-piece.

Suarez covers a multitude of sins however and within a minute he had Barca level. Neymar took a quick throw and Suarez let the ball bounce once before dispatching it brilliantly past Alves.

Mangala then clattered into Messi on the edge of the penalty area. Hearts were in mouths as the Argentinian stayed down in some discomfort. Mangala was booked and when Messi got to his feet it was Valencia hearts in mouths as his free-kick shaved Alves' bar.

Suarez celebrates after scoring yet another goal for the Catalan giants on Sunday night in La Liga

Suarez celebrates after scoring yet another goal for the Catalan giants on Sunday night in La Liga

The former Liverpool striker pictured scoring Barcelona's first goal in the enthralling contest at the Nou Camp

The former Liverpool striker pictured scoring Barcelona's first goal in the enthralling contest at the Nou Camp

Rafinha acrobatically attempts to score with this left-footed shot during Sunday evening's Spanish league clash  

Rafinha acrobatically attempts to score with this left-footed shot during Sunday evening's Spanish league clash  

Suarez attempted a similar effort as he throws himself in the air in a bid to score a stunning goal against his La Liga rivals 

Suarez attempted a similar effort as he throws himself in the air in a bid to score a stunning goal against his La Liga rivals 

If that caution from Mangala was more orange than yellow it wasn't long before amber changed to red.

Suarez got away from him in the area and he pulled his shirt. Suarez pointed to his shirt, the referee pointed to the spot and Mangala heard the Nou Camp roar for Messi's converted penalty as he was walking down the tunnel.

Whatever defensive problems Manchester City have, recalling Mangala is still a long way from figuring the solutions. His goal had given Valencia the advantage but with two naive fouls he had surely blown his side's chances of victory.

Munir was not beaten however. The loanee did his chances of returning in the summer no harm by converting Soler's pass to make it 2-2 with the last kick of the first half.

Mangala scored with a well-placed powerful header to put the visitors ahead in the 29th minute on Sunday night

Mangala scored with a well-placed powerful header to put the visitors ahead in the 29th minute on Sunday night

Manchester City loanee Mangala celebrates with his Valencia team-mates after he gave his side a surprise lead

Manchester City loanee Mangala celebrates with his Valencia team-mates after he gave his side a surprise lead

Messi cuts a dejected figure on the Nou Camp pitch before playing a starring role by grabbing a brace against Valencia 

Messi cuts a dejected figure on the Nou Camp pitch before playing a starring role by grabbing a brace against Valencia 

Neymar, the Brazilian Barcelona superstar, cuts a dejected figure behind the goal after missing a chance to score 

Neymar, the Brazilian Barcelona superstar, cuts a dejected figure behind the goal after missing a chance to score 

He scored against Barcelona earlier in the season – two in two games is not a bad return. The same thought might have crossed Paco Alcacer's mind sat on the Barca bench. He replaced Munir in the summer at the cost of £26m.

Barcelona started the second half well and Alves denied Neymar with his legs but there was no denying Messi moments later.

Andres Iniesta slid the pass through to him and he edged around substitute Aymen Abdennour before beating the Valencia keeper at his near post for goal No 41 of the season.

It could have been more. Suarez sent one Messi pass well wide and Neymar thumped a free-kick against the crossbar. It was so nearly a carbon copy of the free-kick he scored against Paris Saint-Germain. He was having fun against the 10-man opposition, shooting at Alves through the legs of Martin Montoya.

Valencia now had West Ham flop Simone Zaza on for Munir and while there was only one goal in it there was hope but former Valencia midfielder Andre Gomes put paid to that tapping in the fourth.

 

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By Shane Walker 03/20/2017 02:39:00