Barcelona draw against Valencia in 2-2 thriller

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (2L) celebrates with teammates after scoring during the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona against Valencia CF at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on February 2, 2019. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP) (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)
Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (2L) celebrates with teammates after scoring during the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona against Valencia CF at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on February 2, 2019. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP) (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images) /
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Barcelona came back from 2-0 down to draw

Ernesto Valverde heavily rotated for the game against Valencia, resting Clément Lenglet for the full 90 minutes and Arthur and Jordi Alba partially. In the end, Barcelona came away with a point, which was quite reflective of the performances of the two sides.

Valencia got off to a flier, with Denis Cheryshev hitting the post in the 3rd minute after Dani Parejo’s shot was brilliantly parried by Marc-André ter Stegen. They kept hitting Barça on the counter, finally establishing the lead in the 24th minute.

Rodrigo set off on a superb run down the middle, and put Kevin Gameiro through on goal with a delicate through ball. The 32-year old Frenchman provided a clinical finish. Los Che extended their lead in the 32nd minute with a spot-kick.

Makeshift left-back Sergi Roberto needlessly brought down Daniel Wass to prevent him from getting on the end of a cross floated into a harmless position. Valencia captain Dani Parejo converted the penalty with ease, blazing it into the top right corner.

But Barça replied with a penalty of their own in the 39th minute. In a good move started by Arturo Vidal, the ball fell to Leo Messi and he buried it into the top right corner past Neto. But in a slightly controversial decision, the referee pointed to the spot for an earlier foul on Nélson Semedo.

The Portuguese right-back was clipped only faintly clipped on the heels, and he went down easily. But none of this mattered to Messi, as the Argentine maestro scored his second penalty of the league season to initiate Barça’s comeback.

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Valverde made a statement of intent with Jordi Alba coming on to replace Nélson Semedo at half-time, and Sergi Roberto returning to the right. He had an immediate impact, as the Spanish left-back started linking up with his partner in crime promptly.

Messi finally equalised for Barça in the 63rd minute after a period of absolute dominance. Arturo Vidal‘s brilliant back-heel set up the Argentine maestro, who curled it into the bottom right corner. It was a masterful finish, with Neto rooted to the spot.

The rest of the match was end-to-end, with Barça putting tremendous pressure on the Valencia backline and Los Che setting up impressive counter-attacks. But it culminated in a draw, as neither side could make a significant breakthrough despite many chances.

Dani Parejo was clearly the man-of-the-match. The Valencia captain was faultless, and was crucial in both of their goals. Barça might have missed a trick by not signing him last season. Rodrigo was also impressive, despite having missed two clear-cut opportunities.

As usual, Lionel Messi was the best player for Barça. But Carles Aleñá was also very good. The La Masia graduate put in a performance of the highest caliber, and it was a poor decision to take him off for Arthur. Both Arturo Vidal and Thomas Vermaelen were quite impressive.

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Considering the circumstances and Valencia’s resolute defence, a draw is the best result that Ernesto Valverde could have hoped for. But the rest to Sergio Busquets and Clément Lenglet will come in very handy in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final against Real Madrid.