Messi lifts Barca over Va­len­cia

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

LIONEL Messi shrugged off his re­cent woes from the penalty spot with a de­ci­sive 94th-minute spot-kick to move Barcelona top of La Liga with a pul­sat­ing 3-2 win at Va­len­cia on Oc­to­ber 22.

How­ever, the dra­matic vic­tory came at a cost for Barca as a tear­ful An­dres Ini­esta suf­fered lig­a­ment dam­age in his right knee that could keep him out for sev­eral months.

Messi net­ted twice and his opener mid­way through the first half was al­lowed to stand de­spite Luis Suarez stray­ing into an off­side po­si­tion.

Va­len­cia hit back with two goals in six sec­ond-half min­utes through on-loan Barca winger Mu­nir El Had­dadi and Ro­drigo.

How­ever, Suarez lev­elled and was then up­ended in­side the area by Ay­men Ab­den­nour to al­low Messi to hold his nerve and slot past penal­tystop­ping spe­cial­ist Diego Alves for all three points.

Vic­tory moves the cham­pi­ons a point clear of Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.

He may be one of the finest foot­ballers ever but Messi has strug­gled from the spot in re­cent sea­sons, most no­tably blaz­ing over as Ar­gentina lost the Copa Amer­ica fi­nal to Chile in June.

“Our best penalty-taker is Leo Messi with­out any doubt,” Barca boss Luis En­rique said.

Va­len­cia stop­per Alves had saved three penal­ties this sea­son and from Messi in the past, but was beaten low to his right.

“Messi took re­spon­si­bil­ity in the best mo­ment and it is a glo­ri­ous feel­ing for us,” added En­rique.

A bad-tem­pered en­counter spilled over af­ter Messi’s strike, though, as Suarez and Ney­mar were hit by a plas­tic bot­tle thrown by the Va­len­cia fans as Barca cel­e­brated.

“We cel­e­brated as it is nor­mal to cel­e­brate a last-minute win­ner,” said En­rique.

The game was only 14 min­utes old when Ini­esta was car­ried from the field in tears hold­ing his right knee, which buck­led un­der a heavy chal­lenge from Enzo Perez.

En­rique was fu­ri­ous with ref­eree Al­berto Un­di­ano Mal­lenco as Perez avoided even a yel­low card, whilst a se­ries of other fouls on Barca play­ers went un­pun­ished.

Barca con­firmed Ini­esta suf­fered lat­eral col­lat­eral lig­a­ment dam­age, but said fur­ther tests would be car­ried out to de­ter­mine the ex­act ex­tent of the in­jury.

How­ever, it was Va­len­cia who were up in arms at the of­fi­cials when Messi opened the scor­ing on 22 min­utes.

The Ar­gen­tine’s fifth goal in three games since re­turn­ing from a groin in­jury sneaked in at Alves’ near post, but the Brazil­ian goal­keeper had been dis­tracted by the pres­ence of the off­side Suarez jump­ing over Messi’s ef­fort.

“It is lam­en­ta­ble, ab­so­lutely lam­en­ta­ble that ref­er­ee­ing de­ci­sions pre­vented Va­len­cia from tak­ing a point or more from this match,” Va­len­cia sport­ing direc­tor Je­sus Gar­cia Pitarch told BeIN Sports Spain.

Va­len­cia turned the game around early in the sec­ond half as Dani Parejo’s cut-back was drilled into the bot­tom cor­ner by El Had­dadi against his par­ent club.

The 21-year-old held his hands up apolo­get­i­cally af­ter find­ing the net, but there were wild cel­e­bra­tions led by new Va­len­cia boss Ce­sare Pran­delli mo­ments later when Ro­drigo swept home Nani’s through-ball.

Va­len­cia’s lead lasted just six min­utes de­spite Alves’s best ef­forts as Suarez pounced to smash home a re­bound af­ter Ivan Rakitic’s pow­er­ful header had been saved by the Va­len­cia stop­per.

Barca swarmed for­ward in search of a win­ner, but had to wait un­til deep into stop­page time when Messi played in Suarez and he was clearly taken out from be­hind by Ab­den­nour.

Messi stroked home his 14th goal of the sea­son to se­cure a vi­tal three points in the ti­tle race.

Ear­lier, Es­panyol bat­tled back from 3-0 down at half-time to sal­vage a point and pos­si­bly coach Quique Sanchez Flores’ job in a 3-3 draw at home to Eibar.

Granada and Sport­ing Gi­jon re­main in the rel­e­ga­tion zone af­ter a 0-0 draw, whilst Real So­ciedad moved into the top half with a com­fort­able 3-0 win over Alaves. –

Photo: AFP

Barcelona’s Ar­gen­tinian for­ward Lionel Messi (cen­tre) cel­e­brates with team­mates af­ter scor­ing dur­ing the Span­ish league foot­ball match Va­len­cia CF vs FC Barcelona at Mestalla Sta­dium in Va­len­cia on Oc­to­ber 22.

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