Messi brace sinks Valencia



Sports Desk, Barta24.com
Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

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Lionel Messi came through for Barcelona again, keeping the Spanish league’s title race wide open.

Messi scored two second-half goals on Sunday — including his 50th from a free kick — as Barcelona came from behind to beat Valencia 3-2 and get within two points of leader Atletico Madrid ahead of their key match at the Camp Nou Stadium next weekend.

A win will give Ronald Koeman’s team the league lead for the first time this season, reports Indian Express.

Antoine Griezmann also scored for Barcelona, which is tied on points with second-place Madrid with four rounds to go. Madrid has a better head-to-head tiebreaker against both rivals at the top. Sevilla also remains in the title race. It can move within three points of the lead if it beats Athletic Bilbao at home on Monday. Sevilla visits Madrid next weekend.

Barcelona made the trip to Valencia under pressure after both Atletico and Madrid won their matches on Saturday Atletico edged Elche 1-0 and Madrid defeated Osasuna 2-0. The Catalan club was coming off a shock 2-1 home loss to Granada on Thursday, when it could have grabbed sole possession of the lead.

“It was an important win to keep us in the fight after that unexpected loss,” Barcelona captain Gerard Pique said.

“We’ll try to win next weekend and take the lead. It’s in our hands.”

The pressure increased Sunday after Valencia opened the scoring at the Mestalla Stadium with Gabriel Paulista’s goal in the 50th minute. The midfielder beat Barcelona defender Clement Lenglet to the ball for an easy header by the far post. Video review was used to check on a possible foul away from the ball but the goal stood.

The Argentina star equalized in the 57th in the fallout of his own penalty kick after his poor shot from the spot was saved by Valencia goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen. Barcelona midfielders Sergio Busquets and Pedri Gonzalez both had attempts before Messi got to the loose ball and scored from close range.