Barcelona moved on from their disappointing Champions League ouster as they saw off Valencia in a narrow 2-1 win at Camp Nou on Saturday.
Valencia started the game the stronger of the two sides, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen having to remain alert. But, the hosts soon grabbed a foothold in the match as Philippe Coutinho sliced open a stubborn Los Che defence to provide a close-ranged chance to Luis Suarez, who made no error in scoring past Neto.
Valencia continued to carve out the chances, albeit without much success as the end product remained missing. Their task of denying Barcelona another win became all the tougher as Coutinho provided yet another assist, this time to Samuel Umtiti, who nodded the ball into the net in the 51st minute.
The match remained an end-to-end affair for the remainder of the 40 minutes, coming to an exciting finish as Dani Parejo converted from the spot after Jose Gaya was brought down by Ousmane Dembele in the Barcelona box. But, the Catalans held on for the narrow win, and The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ernesto Valverde’s men.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 7.5/10
A busier league outing than he is usually accustomed to, ter Stegen had to remain alert throughout the game to keep his side’s lead intact. Two of his saves on Saturday were right from the top drawer, keeping Goncalo Guedes and Rodrigo at bay, the latter redeeming from his own error just moments earlier.
Barcelona makes La Liga history pic.twitter.com/x4f6BqVuQ4
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 14, 2018
The German even guessed the direction of Dani Parejo’s penalty correctly, and should have saved upon diving the right way, but the ball just squeezed underneath his body.
Sergi Roberto: 6/10
Roberto was preferred to Nelson Semedo at right-back on Saturday, and did an admirable job in what is becoming a better suited position for him. The Spaniard had his hands full with Guedes all through the afternoon, but the Portuguese had to work hard to carve out the smallest of chances.
Also played his part in Barcelona’s opener, pulling Jose Gaya out of position before Coutinho played the pass to Luis Suarez.
Gerard Pique: 6/10
A blow hot blow cold performance for Pique. The veteran defender had two vital moments that ensured his side remained in the lead, blocking Geoffrey Kondogbia and making a goal-line clearance. Was sloppy in possession at times, with a poor clearance gifting Rodrigo an open chance that prompted a strong stop from ter Stegen.
Samuel Umtiti: 6/10
Like his partner, it was a mixed performance from Umtiti, who was largely solid on the night and kept Santi Mina and Rodrigo in check for the most part. But, an unfortunate slip in the second half gave Rodri a sniff at goal, before Pique saved his blushes. But, the Frenchman made amends just moments later when he headed home the winner.
Jordi Alba: 7/10
The most solid of the Barcelona players, there was very little past Alba on Saturday, meaning Carlos Soler didn’t have much joy. The Spaniard even made a vital block to deny Guedes in the first half. Going forward, the former Valencia man tormented the visitors, linking up well with Coutinho, Andres Iniesta and Lionel, constantly posing a threat on the left flank.
Replacing the colossal Ivan Rakitic was always going to be a tall order, but to barely turn up was not a part of the job description. The Brazilian operated deeper than usual, but wasn’t a great help defensively. On the other end of the pitch, he created no impact whatsoever, with his passing being wayward.
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
In stark contrast to his outing against Roma, Busquets was quite close to his best, breaking up plays down the middle while setting the tempo of the game to help his side dominate proceedings once again. The veteran was also quite adventurous on the day, advancing forward on a number of occasions to make his presence felt in attack as well.
Andres Iniesta: 7/10
That beautiful Iniesta volley. #BarçaValencia
— Captain Guardiola ⚽ (@CaptnGuardiola) April 14, 2018
Another player who was much improved after a disastrous night in Rome. Iniesta was back to his incisive best, linking up smartly with those ahead of him and dictating the tempo of the game. Could have had a memorable goal, but his acrobatic volley was tipped away by Neto.
Lionel Messi: 6/10
Messi was again far from his best on Saturday, although it was a game of two halves for the Argentine. Largely kept quiet in the first half, he burst into life after the break, regularly probing at the Valencia defence.
Created the chance for Iniesta, while himself coming close to scoring on a couple of occasions, one a volley that flew just over and other a long range effort that was whiskers away from going into the bottom left corner.
Luis Suarez: 6/10
While he did get the opening goal for his side, Suarez was one of the worst players on the pitch from both sides. The star striker missed a chance early into the game, and had several frustrating moments throughout the afternoon. Looks more like the struggling player from the first half of the season.
Philippe Coutinho: 8/10
Coutinho seems to have settled well into his new surroundings and how. The Brazilian was, hands down, the best player on Saturday, assisting both goals, the first with a moment of brilliance as he sliced open the Valencia defence with consummate ease.
Philippe Coutinho’s game by numbers vs. Valencia:
3 tackles won
2 chances created
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 14, 2018
Other than the two moments, Coutinho was lively all afternoon, all over the place and even came close to scoring with a long-range effort. One must wonder what sort of impact he could have had against Roma had he not been cup-tied.
Ousmane Dembele: 4/10
Replacing Coutinho with less than 15 minutes left in the game, Dembele was a definite level below the Brazilian. The Frenchman did not have much time to create a lasting impact in attack, and gave Valencia a late hope when he slid into Jose Gaya to concede a penalty.