Lionel Messi brought Barcelona back from two goals down against Valencia as the two sides played out a pulsating 2-2 draw at Camp Nou on Saturday.
Valencia took the game to the table toppers from the get-go, coming close to taking an early lead, first through Dani Parejo and then Denis Cheryshev. Los Che deservedly broke the deadlock midway through the first half when Rodrigo Moreno threaded the ball through to Kevin Gameiro, who made no error in slotting it past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Eight minutes later, Valencia were two to the good as Parejo converted from the spot after Daniel Wass was brought down in the Barcelona box by Sergi Roberto. But, the hosts pulled a goal back with a penalty of their own, with Lionel Messi scoring it following a foul on Nelson Semedo.
Barcelona dominated much of the second half, with Messi forcing Neto into a fine stop moments into the period. On the other end, ter Stegen was also forced into making one or two saves, although much of the action was in the opposite half of the pitch.
⌛️FULL-TIME: There's the whistle! Leo Messi scores twice as Barça battle back from 2-0, first-half deficit to earn a tie!
FT: Barça 2 – 2 Valencia
⚽️ #Messi 39' (p.), 64' / Gameiro 24' , Parejo 32' (p.)
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) February 2, 2019
The La Liga champions finally scored the well-deserved equaliser in the 64th minute, with Messi unsurprisingly coming to the rescue. The goal, in particular, was as beautiful as they come, as the Barcelona captain bent the ball around Ezequiel Garay and past Neto.
The game eventually ended 2-2, with the two sides sharing the spoils. Barcelona though, have stretched their lead atop the table following Atletico Madrid’s loss to Real Betis. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ernesto Valverde’s men.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 7/10
A big reason why Barcelona salvaged a point from the game, perhaps as important to the result as Messi was. The German shot stopper made a brilliant save from Dani Parejo in the third minute before making another beautiful stop to thwart Rodrigo later on in the game. There were a few other routine saves on show, but he couldn’t have done anything for the two goals.
Nelson Semedo: 8/10
Another game that showed just how far Semedo has come this season. A constant energetic presence in the final third, the Portuguese full-back created the biggest threat for the hosts in the first half. Won the penalty for Barcelona’s first goal and kept a check on Denis Cheryshev superbly. Taken off at half-time, perhaps to save him for the Copa del Rey tie against Real Madrid.
Gerard Pique: 6/10
A tough game for Pique, who had to play for much of the game with a head injury after clashing with Kevin Gameiro. The veteran Spaniard did appear to be groggy for a while, but soon found his feet before shutting down the space at the back for Valencia for much of the second half. A solid performance for the most part.
Thomas Vermaelen: 5/10
Given a rare start at the heart of the Barcelona defence, so as to afford Clement Lenglet a rest, Thomas Vermaelen missed his opportunity. While the Belgian was neat in possession, he struggled against the pace of Rodrigo, even getting caught out for Gameiro’s goal. Much improved in the second half when Barcelona dominated the game.
Sergi Roberto: 5/10
Roberto started the game as the left-back, a position in which he struggled throughout the first half. The Spaniard was almost a liability, with his poor sense of positioning, although he provided a threat going forward. Cost his side the penalty that Parejo converted. Much better on the opposite flank after Jordi Alba’s introduction.
Carles Alena: 7/10
Another opportunity bestowed. Another game wherein Alena impressed. The La Masia graduate was a constant threat moving forward, with his link-up with Messi particularly being admirable. Showed off his range of passing, which helped the hosts control the game in the second half. Solid with his off the ball work as well.
Ivan Rakitic: 7/10
With Sergio Busquets suspended, Ivan Rakitic started as the deepest midfielder for Barcelona. And, as he has proven in recent outings as the Anchor Man, the Croat protected the backline with aplomb after a few initial hiccups. At the same time he helped control the proceedings while also producing a couple of scintillating forward passes into the box.
Arturo Vidal: 6/10
At fault for the first chance of the match, Vidal constantly let Parejo drift in the early stages of the game. But, the Chilean grafted along apart from those forgettable moments, driving Barcelona forward at every available opportunity. Involved in the second goal for his side, with his backheel sending Messi into clear space before the equaliser was scored.
Lionel Messi: 8/10
Barcelona’s talisman was at it once again for the umpteenth time. The Blaugrana have been entirely dependent on the Argentine in several games this season, and with Valencia threatening to take all three points from the game, Messi took it upon himself to ensure that wasn’t to be the case.
Calm as you like for the first goal, the La Liga top scorer curled the ball beautifully for his second. Messi is now the first player in Europe’s top five leagues to be directly involved in 30 league goals this season. More incredibly, Messi has directly contributed to at least one goal in each of his last 16 games in La Liga. But, his dead leg would leave Barcelona fans jittery.
August: Real Valladolid (a)
September: Real Sociedad (a)
Those are the only two LaLiga games this season Lionel Messi has played in and not scored or assisted. 😳 pic.twitter.com/ZTAKe7gzaA
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 2, 2019
Luis Suarez: 6/10
One of the in-form players for Barcelona lately, Suarez was not quite at his best on a night when nothing went right for him. Looked a little leggy as the game went on and Gabriel Paulista contained him quite well for the most part on Saturday. A rare blip for the star striker.
Philippe Coutinho: 6/10
After a strong performance against Sevilla in the midweek cup tie, Coutinho was far from his best against Valencia. He did create a number of opportunities in the first half, but tailed off considerably post the break. Struggled to get shots on target as well. Needs to find the consistency in his game.
Jordi Alba: 7/10
On for Semedo at half-time, Alba replaced Roberto on the left side of the Barcelona defence and was a major upgrade on his compatriot. A much better outlet in the final third, his trademark link-up with Messi was on full show as well.
The Brazilian replaced Alena in midfield and continued from where the youngster had left off. Controlled the midfield beautifully but could not inspire his side to a win. Will be an important player against Real Madrid.
Malcom had just seven minutes on the pitch and could not make much of an impact.