Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann made the difference as Barcelona came from a goal down to beat Valencia 3-2 at Camp Nou on Sunday.
The first half was all Barcelona, with the constant picture in the opening 45 minutes being that of the visitors hovering in and around the Valencia box. However, despite their dominance, Barcelona were unable to test Jasper Cillessen much, let alone break the deadlock going into half-time. Post the interval, Valencia stepped up and the result was there to be seen.
After coming close to scoring initially, Los Che grabbed the lead in the 50th minute through Gabriel Paulista, who headed into an open net after a mistake by Marc-Andre ter Stegen. But, Barcelona hit back with vengeance, although Lionel Messi had his initial penalty saved in the 57th minute before a melee ended up with the Argentine scoring through bodies.
Then, a six-minute spell saw Barcelona complete their comeback as Antoine Griezmann scored from close range after Frenkie de Jong had his shot saved by Cillessen, before Messi made it 3-1 with a superb free-kick. Valencia pulled a goal back late on through a wondrous strike by Carlos Soler, but the visitors managed to hold on to their slender advantage.
The result enabled Barcelona to keep pace with Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid in the La Liga title race, following the Madrilean sides’ wins on Saturday, making the upcoming weekend’s fixtures – Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid vs Sevilla – a couple of virtual six-pointers. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ronald Koeman’s men.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 5/10
A rare underwhelming performance by ter Stegen, who comically fell down before Gabriel Paulista put Valencia in front. Otherwise, he had precious little to do, but did make a couple of fine reflex stops. Could not have done much to deny Carlos Soler’s world-class strike.
Ronald Araujo: 7/10
Reinstated in the side in place of Oscar Mingueza, Araujo had a point to prove and he did exactly that. Kept a check on Goncalo Guedes all game long and even came close to scoring, although his effort was directed straight at former Barcelona goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen. Won 4 duels while completing 93 percent of his attempted passes.
Gerard Pique: 7/10
There was a scare in the build-up to the game, as Pique picked up a minor injury. However, the veteran Barcelona defender soldiered on and entirely negated the influence of Maximiliano Gomez. Pique was particularly imperious in the air, winning each of his six aerial duels while hardly ever misplacing a pass. Job well done in the end.
Clement Lenglet: 5/10
Back in the starting lineup in place of Samuel Umtiti, Lenglet was rather unimpressive as he lost Gabriel in the lead-up to the opening Valencia goal. Hardly called into action otherwise, which makes his error even worse. However, with Barcelona in control of the proceedings, the Frenchman almost played like a midfielder, completing a staggering 111 passes.
Sergino Dest: 5/10
The Player to Watch in our preview, Dest needed a blistering performance to nail down his spot in the side. But, that is the exact opposite of what he did. The USMNT international was almost exclusively in the Valencia half and only misplaced a pass. However, he never really took the risk of sending in dangerous looking crosses and also left a lot to be desired defensively. Has to step up.
Frenkie de Jong: 7/10
— barcacentre (@barcacentre) May 2, 2021
Frenkie de Jong produced a composed performance in the middle of the park, in which he linked up superbly with Messi and Antoine Griezmann. The Dutchman was always at hand to add to the bodies inside the Valencia box and it was he who put the pressure on Toni Lato leading up to his handball. Also came to the end of a Jordi Alba cross before the rebound fell kindly to Griezmann.
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
Yet another game in which Busquets seamlessly held the fort in the middle of the park, providing a solid base for Barcelona to dominate the proceedings. Made a staggering 8 recoveries while being precise as ever with the ball at his feet, completing 95 percent of his attempted passes. The ageless wonder for Barcelona.
This was another game in which Pedri showed the effects of the accumulating minutes in this late stage of the season. The youngster, though, hustled and put in the hard yards, linking up smartly with Messi and Alba. It was also his driven shot that rebounded towards the Barcelona captain for the equaliser. Will now hope to end the season strongly.
Jordi Alba: 6/10
Alba was not quite at his electrifying best, even though he was a constant outlet down the left flank for Barcelona. In fact, the Spanish international had more touches on the ball than anyone else on the pitch, which ought to have resulted in a better output than just one completed cross. However, that one cross eventually ended up with Griezmann’s goal, as de Jong’s saved header rebounded towards the Frenchman.
Lionel Messi: 8/10
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) May 2, 2021
If not for the missed penalty, Messi would probably have received a higher rating. Nevertheless, the Barcelona captain did make amends almost instantly when he scored through a melee to make it 1-1 before completing the comeback with a scintillating free-kick.
As for the rest of his evening, it was Messi who pulled the strings for Barcelona along with de Jong and could have even had an assist to show for efforts, had Araujo buried the shot from his indirect free-kick. Still, it was a memorable evening for the Argentine wizard, who continues to go from strength to strength.
Antoine Griezmann: 8/10
Another game, another top-notch display by Griezmann, who was here, there and everywhere. One of those who were nearly there to score a goal in the first half, but the Frenchman never stopped looking for scoring opportunities and typically worked hard off the ball. Finally got his reward for a strong effort when he pounced on a rebound from Frenkie de Jong’s shot to score the second Barcelona goal.
Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann have contributed in a combined 62 goals in 2021.
No other attacking duo has more. pic.twitter.com/b1gQzC199l
— MessiTeam (@Lionel10Team) May 2, 2021
Ilaix Moriba: N/A
Given the final 15 minutes, Ilaix Moriba was largely solid in his cameo, but did lose the ball before Soler unleashed a fiercely driven shot.
Sergi Roberto: N/A
On for Dest, Roberto kept things simple late on to see the game out, shoring things up further after Soler pulled one back for Valencia.