Messi an 8/10 as brace leads Barcelona comeback in draw vs. Valencia
BARCELONA, Spain -- Two Lionel Messi goals helped Barcelona come from behind to draw, 2-2, against Valencia at Camp Nou on Saturday in La Liga.
Kevin Gameiro and a Dani Parejo penalty helped Valencia take a two-goal lead before half-time against the league leaders. Messi pulled one back before the break from the penalty spot, though, and then helped Barca earn a point with a fine finish from the edge of the box in the second half.
Barca reacted well to going two goals down. Led by Messi, they got back in the game and perhaps deserved to win it. In the end, though, they ran out of gas, which was perhaps inevitable given their midweek exploits against Sevilla.
Coach Ernesto Valverde will be upset with how slowly his side came out of the blocks. They can't keep having to come from behind in games. Valencia could have had more than the two goals inside the first half an hour. Parejo drew a fine save from Marc-André ter Stegen, and Denis Cheryshev hit the post. The draw ends Barca's eight-game winning streak in the league.
More bad news came in the form of a late yellow card for Jordi Alba. It was his fifth booking of the season, which means he will be banned for next weekend's trip to Athletic Bilbao. Barca have no natural replacement for the left-back in the squad.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Valverde erred in opting to leave Alba on the bench. Sergi Roberto struggled at left-back in the first half and Alba came on at the break. The coach will have to work on another plan for the next time he wants to give Alba a rest.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andr ter Stegen, 7 -- Made two really good saves, one on Parejo early on and another on Rodrigo in the second half. Also made several other more routine stops in the latter stages of the game. Wasn't at fault for either goal.
DF Nelson Semedo, 7 -- Started off with some awkward touches but improved as the half went on. Won the penalty and was an attacking threat on the right. Unfortunate to be taken off at half-time for Alba, with Roberto switching to right-back.
DF Gerard Pique, 7 -- Was guilty of a slow start like the rest of his teammates but was more commanding in the second half. Is in good form but may need a break soon. Looking at the fixtures Barca have, though, it's difficult to know when he can get one.
DF Sergi Roberto, 6 -- Gave away a penalty with a silly push in what was a tricky first half at left-back. Improved when he moved to right-back. Hit the post twice, too: first with a shot and later with a deflected cross.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 7 -- The deepest midfielder in the absence of the suspended Sergio Busquets. Always does well when playing a more defensive role, although he still found time to get forward, testing Neto from distance.
MF Arturo Vidal, 6 -- Was everywhere, consistent with the chaotic nature of his game, as Barca looked to get back into the game. Produced a nice touch to set up Messi's equaliser.
MF Carles Alena, 6 -- Struggled to connect with Semedo in the first half but had some nice moments before being taken off after the break. One touch and pass to set up a counter-attack was particularly nice.
FW Lionel Messi, 8 -- Wasn't at his very best but still made the difference. Coolly stroked home from the penalty spot and added a more impressive second goal to take his tally in La Liga for the season to 21. Dipped out of the game late on, though, after receiving some treatment on the sideline and could be a doubt for the midweek Copa del Rey Clasico vs. Real Madrid.
FW Luis Suarez, 6 -- Great run in the build-up to Messi's leveller but an erratic performance in general.
FW Philippe Coutinho, 6 -- Came close with a couple of shots. One was saved by Neto, the other was deflected for a corner. Taken off for Malcom for the final 10 minutes, though, after a very average performance.
DF Jordi Alba, 7 -- Barcelona are much better at attacking when they have Alba as an outlet on the left. The first half without him and the second half with him offered a stark reminder of that.
MF Arthur Melo, N/R -- Came on for Alena late on.
FW Malcom, N/R -- Only given a handful of minutes but looked menacing and keen to make something happen.