Lionel Messi rescued a point for the visitors with a brilliant effort as Barcelona played out a 1-1 draw against Valencia at Mestalla on Sunday.
As Ernesto Valverde had highlighted before the match, despite Barcelona’s recent record against Valencia, the trip to Mestalla was going to be a tricky one. Marcelino and his men were desperate to move up the table after a very sordid start to the 2018-19 campaign.
It was Valencia who started strong on Sunday and got the opening goal, thanks to some confusion in the box, which saw the ball come to Ezequiel Garay, who slotted in home from within 3 yards. There were suspicions of offside but the goal stood. Valencia had a few more opportunities to extend the lead.
But, Barcelona, in a flash of a pan, equalised. Luis Suarez teed Lionel Messi up perfectly and the Argentine drilled the ball past Neto. The second half was much more dominant from Barcelona. But, the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi failed to make the chances count, with the match ending in a draw, as was expected from the start.
We now take a look at how the Barcelona individuals fared.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen – 6
Ter Stegen did make a couple of saves. But, most of Valencia’s shots fizzled past the post. While the German international did not put a foot wrong, it is often the goalkeeper who is held responsible for a lack of organization if there is confusion inside the box from a set-piece. Decent outing.
Nelson Semedo – 6.5
Starting in place of Sergi Roberto, who is still injured, Semedo put in an assured outing. In fact, if it was not for the full-backs, Valencia might have conceded more. Boasting a passing accuracy of 95%, Semedo would have surely surprised a lot of the Barcelona fans with his outing. Perhaps, Semedo can be the right-back Barcelona want him to be, with time.
Gerard Pique – 7
A good Gerard Pique outing has not been seen since a fortnight, or maybe more. But, it happened on Sunday. The Spaniard was dominant in the air and on the ground as well. While Valencia did manage a lot of room in and around the box, Pique dealt with the danger, closing down the opponents so as to make them uncomfortable.
More of the same, captain.
Thomas Vermaelen – 5.5
One of the strangest decisions from Ernesto Valverde. The selection will also not help instil confidence in summer arrival Clement Lenglet, who would have been hopeful of getting an extended run in the absence of Samuel Umtiti. While Vermaelen was comfortable with the ball at his feet, the Belgian was one of the many reasons for the joy Valencia received in the Barcelona third.
Unexpected from Valverde.
Jordi Alba – 6.5
Alba did not offer much going forward on Sunday. But, he was solid at the back, with 2 successful tackles to show for his efforts. The Spaniard is often labelled as an attacking full-back. But, he showed he can also go down to brass tacks and do the dirty work when required.
Ivan Rakitic – 6.5
It’s safe to say that Barcelona won the midfield battle, with Ivan Rakitic and his partners spraying passes with ease and incredible accuracy. Was dispossessed a couple of times, though.
Sergio Busquets – 6
While he was assured on the ball and did string together passes well, he was unable to stop the opposition players from marauding forward. Unable to break the channels like usual, Busquets cut a frustrated figure on the pitch. Perhaps, Busquets is in need of a rest.
Arthur – 6.5
Another strong showing from the Brazilian, who looks to be coming into his own. Dominant in possession, Arthur would still need to do some work on his defensive skills. Otherwise, the Brazilian is growing, in confidence and in stature within the club.
Lionel Messi – 7.5
If not for the Argentine, Barcelona would have come away without a point and another defeat in La Liga, potentially their second in La Liga this season. While Luis Suarez did tee up Messi brilliantly, the piledriver that the Argentine let out fizzed past Neto into the back of the net. Had 4 successful dribbles, the most of any player during the game, and tried to add another, but to no avail.
Carrying Barcelona on his back right now.
Luis Suarez – 6
Barcelona look desperate for a new striker. Luis Suarez can link up well. But, his form this season has been disappointing to say the least. On Sunday, he cut a lonesome figure again and his assist to Messi was his only highlight. He could have added another assist but Coutinho failed to get off a shot from close range.
Philippe Coutinho – 6
If Suarez was disappointing, Coutinho never troubled Valencia much. A cut inside the box past two defenders and a shot that the keeper saved was the Brazilian’s highlight. Another and perhaps, the only other major point of the game where Coutinho was involved was around the six-yard box, being played into by Luis Suarez.
But, Coutinho failed to control the ball properly. A rare poor outing.
Ousmane Dembele – N/A
Brought on late into the game for Coutinho, Dembele did not have enough time to affect the proceedings. Still puzzled as to why the Frenchman did not start, especially with Luis Suarez not 100%.
Rafinha – N/A
On for Arthur in the dying embers of the game, Rafinha would have been pleased to get a few minutes under his belt. Did nothing of note though.
Ernesto Valverde – 4
While we do not usually rate managers, this had to be done for the Sunday fixture. Valverde’s selections were puzzling to say the least. Starting Vermaelen ahead of summer signing and arguably, the future, Clement Lenglet and persisting with Luis Suarez upfront despite not being at 100% and in a dire run of form, especially with Ousmane Dembele on the bench needs explaining.
Lionel Messi could have been used through the centre. But, Valverde seemed lost, with the manager leaving it too late to use his substitutions. Poor man-management from the manager.