MESSI TO THE RESCUE

Scores twice as Barcelona see off a dogged Va­len­cia

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LIONEL Messi scored twice as La Liga cham­pi­ons Barcelona saw off a per­sis­tent Va­len­cia side, who had Eli­aquim Man­gala sent off in the first half, to win 4-2 on Sun­day and stay on the heels of lead­ers Real Madrid.

Manch­ester City loa­nee Man­gala stunned the Nou Camp by head­ing Va­len­cia in front in the 29th minute but Luis Suarez soon can­celled out the opener fol­low­ing a quick throw-in by Ney­mar and the Uruguayan then won a penalty as he was hauled down by Man­gala, who was sent off for a sec­ond book­ing.

Messi beat penalty-sav­ing ex­pert Diego Alves from the spot for the sec­ond time this sea­son to pull Barca level in the 45th minute but Mu­nir El Had­dadi, who is on loan from the Cata­lans, equalised im­me­di­ately in in­jury time of the first half.

Barca dom­i­nated the sec­ond half and took the lead for the sec­ond time when Messi smashed the ball past Alves’s near post but the vis­it­ing side cre­ated an open­ing to level again but Mu­nir squan­dered the chance.

For­mer Va­len­cia mid­fielder An­dre Gomes then scored his first goal for Barcelona to make sure of the points.

Barca are sec­ond in the standings on 63 points, two be­hind Real who have a game in hand.

“We con­trolled the game but they made the most of a set piece and a counter at­tack. Over­all we played well, we played at a high tempo and in gen­eral we can be happy with the game,” Barca cap­tain An­dres Ini­esta told re­porters.

“The ti­tle race is still alive and we’re obliged to stay up there and take ad­van­tage of any op­por­tu­nity we get if Real Madrid slip up.”

Ear­lier, An­toine Griez­mann scored for the fifth time in four league games and pro­vided an as­sist as Atletico Madrid beat Sevilla 3-1 to move to within two points of Jorge Sam­paoli’s third-placed side in the La Liga standings.

The France in­ter­na­tional de­liv­ered a cross from a free­kick for Diego Godin to head in the opener in the 37th minute then sent the ball fizzing in off the bar from a set­piece in the 61st while Koke tapped in the third in the 77th to seal a third straight league win for Atletico.

Joaquin Cor­rea scored a con­so­la­tion goal for Sevilla in the 85th.

While Atletico are in the midst of a good run of re­sults Sevilla are in freefall. They have failed to win any of their last four games in all com­pe­ti­tions. They have now lost their last two matches as they went out of the Cham­pi­ons League fol­low­ing a 2-0 de­feat at Le­ices­ter City on Tues­day.

Sevilla have 57 points while Atletico are in fourth place on 55.

“Sevilla have had a mag­nif­i­cent sea­son, praised by ev­ery­one and so this makes our per­for­mance even more laud­able,” Atletico coach Diego Sime­one told re­porters.

Sevilla boss Sam­paoli said his side had made a bad start to the game and lost fo­cus at vi­tal mo­ments.

“We couldn’t con­trol the psy­chol­ogy of the game. We were dom­i­nated at first then just as we started to con­trol the game they scored from a set piece,” he said.

“In the sec­ond half the same thing hap­pened and it was all uphill from then on.”

Also on Sun­day Celta Vigo won the Gali­cian derby at De­portivo La Coruna 1-0 thanks to a late goal from Iago As­pas while Sport­ing Gi­jon beat Granada 3-1 to leapfrog the An­dalu­sians into 18th but re­main in the rel­e­ga­tion zone.

Le­ganes are five points above Sport­ing in 17th af­ter draw­ing 00 at home to Malaga. Reuters

The ti­tle race is still alive and we’re obliged to stay up there and take ad­van­tage of any op­por­tu­nity we get if Real Madrid slip up.

AN­DRES INI­ESTA Barcelona cap­tain

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