Barcelona’s win over Valencia saw the Catalan giants keep their title hopes alive but the team’s chances of finishing top looked in serious jeopardy when Gabriel Paulista headed into an empty net early in the second half.
Lionel Messi was then presented with an excellent chance to equalize but saw his penalty saved by goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen. Fortunately, some good hustle from Sergio Busquets allowed Messi to make amends and make it 1-1.
Antoine Griezmann then put Barca in front before Messi scored a brilliant free-kick to make the game safe.
Or so we thought.
Carlos Soler had other ideas and smashed a thunderous strike past Marc-Andre ter Stegen to set up a nervy finish, but Barca managed to hold on to what are three very important points.
Of course, Barcelona could, and probably should, have put Valencia away much earlier on Sunday. Pedri missed a great early chance, so too Ronald Araujo and until Barca finally scored there was precious little goal threat despite plenty of possession.
It’s not the first time this season we’ve seen Barca waste chances and fail to capitalize on their dominance, and it probably won’t be the last. A new No. 9 is needed and this performance simply highlighted how it must be a priority this summer.
Memphis Depay, Sergio Aguero, and Erling Haaland continue to be linked with a move to the Camp Nou this summer in a bid to boost their attack. Whoever arrives might also want to take over penalty duties too. Messi’s failure means Barca have now missed seven penalties this season in all competitions.
Valencia’s opening goal came from yet another bit of nonsense defending from Barcelona that allowed an unmarked Gabriel all the time in the world to direct a header into an empty net.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen felt he’d been blocked off by Thierry Correia but the referee didn’t agree. It’s one of those that could have gone either way, but you can’t help but feel the goalkeeper could have been a bit stronger in that situation.
As for Clement Lenglet, well it’s the latest in a string of errors in what’s been a pretty nightmare season for the France international. The center-back was back in the team against Valencia but switched off completely for the goal.
Messi hit another double on Sunday to strengthen his grip on the Pichichi (he’s now on 28 La Liga goals, seven clear of Karim Benzema) and help Barca come from behind to beat Valencia.
The first goal came after Messi has produced a really weak penalty but managed to net the rebound. It was a poor effort from the captain but there’s no doubting his second was special, a trademark free-kick that left Cillessen with no chance.
It shouldn’t be the case but you get the feeling that free-kicks come easier to Messi than penalties. That’s now 50 direct free-kick goals for Messi for Barcelona and 26 goals in all competitions in 2021.
Messi might have stolen the headlines once again with another brace for Barcelona but there’s no denying the importance of Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann to the visitors’ win as Barca bounced back from disappointment against Granada.
Griezmann continued his good form with another important goal to put Barca in front. That’s now 19 for the season, along with 12 assists, in what’s turning out to be a strong campaign by the Frenchman.
Meanwhile, De Jong wasn’t on target but was a driving force once again in midfield. It was the Dutchman’s run that brought a handball by Toni Lato which earned Barcelona a penalty. He also helped set up Griezmann’s goal in another influential display.
De Jong, Griezmann and Messi also all avoided a booking that would have seen them ruled out of next week’s crucial clash against Atletico Madrid.