Lionel Messi brace salvages draw for Barcelona against Valencia
Camp Nou, La Liga – FC Barcelona 2 (Messi 39' (P), 64') Valencia CF 2 (Gameiro 24' D. Parejo 32' (P))
Lionel Messi struck twice as Barcelona fought back against Valencia, but it still wasn’t enough to give the Liga leaders all three points as they had to settle for a 2-2 draw.
Ernesto Valverde rang the changes as he rotated his squad, with Carles Alena and Arturo Vidal handed places in midfield and Sergi Roberto asked to play at left back. It was a plot that gave Valencia the initiative from the start.
Kevin Gameiro struck the opener on a rapid counter attack 25 minutes in before Dani Parejo converted from the penalty spot just after the half-hour mark to give Valencia a commanding first-half lead at Camp Nou.
Lionel Messi halved the two-goal deficit after Barcelona were awarded a spot kick of their own, with Roberto thumping a shot off the base of the post just before the break as the hosts threatened an equaliser.
That equaliser came through Messi, who moved the ball on to his left foot and curled a trademark left-foot finish into the back of the net past the helpless Neto. The Argentine then suffered an injury scare and Barcelona failed to complete the comeback, held to a point by an impressive Valencia side.
The Liga leaders extend their lead to six points, but Atletico Madrid can now narrow the gap to three points with a win over Real Betis on Sunday.
TALKING POINT - How serious is the injury sustained by Lionel Messi?
In the moments after Barcelona’s equaliser at 2-2, Camp Nou fell silent. That was because Messi fell to the floor clutching his thigh. The Argentine received treatment and was re-introduced to the game, but his movement was quite clearly affected from that moment on. Given the stretch of matches Barcelona face over the coming weeks, starting with the Clasico next week, who big a blow might this be? How serious is it?
Lionel Messi of Barcelona receives medical treatment during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Valencia CF at Camp Nou on February 2, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain.Getty Images
MAN OF THE MATCH - Dani Parejo (Valencia)
What a performance this was from the Valencia playmaker. Parejo is well known as one of the best number 10s in the Spanish game, but consistency has long been a problem for him. Tonight, though, he found top form, scoring from the spot to give the visitors a 2-0 first-half lead, but also pulling the strings for Valencia throughout. Most opposition players find the size of the Camp Nou pitch daunting. Parejo made the most of that space.
Valencia's Spanish midfielder Daniel Parejo (L) celebrates after scoring during the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona against Valencia CF at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on February 2, 2019Getty Images
5’ Big save! And then off the post! Wow! What a start from Valencia. Parejo was through, Ter Stegen denied him. Cheryshev ran on to the rebound, but his drive smashes off the base of the far post!
25’ GOAL! Barcelona 0-1 Valencia: The breakthrough has been made and it's Gameiro who has scored the opener! Rodrigo drove forward at the Barcelona defence, they stood off him and stood off him. Rodrigo then threaded through Gameiro and the Frenchman finished into the back of the net with the first-time effort.
28’ What a save! Coutinho was played to the byline, his cross was deflected towards the goal by Gabriel, but Neto moved his feet to change direction and tip the ball over the bar.
32’ PENALTY KICK TO VALENCIA! Wass goes down after being pushed by Roberto and the referee points to the spot.
33’ GOAL! Barcelona 0-2 Valencia: Well, well, well. We have a real game on our hands at Camp Nou! What a start to the match by Valencia. Parejo steps up to the 12-yard mark and smashes a strike into the left-hand corner of the net. Ter Stegen didn't stand a chance.
37’ PENALTY KICK TO BARCELONA! It was a tackle from Lato on Semedo, but there's controversy as Messi swept home a finish into the back of the net just as the whistle was blown.
39’ GOAL! Barcelona 1-2 Valencia: Game on at Camp Nou! Messi steps up to the 12 yard mark, where he hasn't always been at his best over the course of his career, but he converts the penalty and Barcelona have a foothold for a comeback in this match. Exciting stuff.
57’ Off the post! Barcelona are banging at the door here. This time it's a cross from Roberto that comes off the woodwork and Valencia live to fight another day. They are so deep, though.
64’ Another chance for three! Rodrigo just couldn't stretch far enough to guide his shot into the back of he net. The pass across goal was brilliant, but Rodrigo puts it over the bar.
65’ GOAL! Barcelona 2-2 Valencia: What a goal! It's Messi! And it's an equaliser for Barcelona! Messi used Garay as a block, he moved the ball on to his left foot and then curled a finish into the back of the net. There was nothing Neto could do about that! He was unsighted.
69’ Messi injury! Uh oh. This could be a big moment not just in this match, but in Barcelona's season. Messi is down and getting some treatment to his thigh. This is a concern.
- Lionel Messi became the third player in La Liga history to score 50 penalties - after Cristiano Ronaldo (61) and Hugo Sanchez (56).
- Messi has scored in each of his last nine appearances for Barcelona in all competitions (11 goals), his best scoring run since January 2013.
- For the third time, Messi has scored in eight straight La Liga matches.