Barcelona underline superiority with convincing win
League leaders Barcelona handed Valencia their first defeat of the season on Friday evening as they ran out 3-1 winners in the top of the table clash. The pair came into this one at the Camp Nou both undefeated, and occupying first and second spot in the table, Barcelona edging it on goal difference. Visitors Valencia made just one change from their last match, a 2-0 win against Villarreal, as Antonio Valencia came in at right-back, Daniel Wass being moved further forward into a defensive midfield role to provide protection for the back four, with Uros Racic dropping to the bench. That meant a start in goal for Jasper Cillessen against his former side on his return to the Camp Nou.
Meanwhile, Barcelona were able to name an attacking quartet of Antoine Griezmann, Coutinho, Ousmane Dembélé and captain Lionel Messi as they looked to deliver an early blow in the title race. With ter Stegen injured, it also ironically meant Neto would be facing his former club, the 31 year old Brazilian shot stopper moving to the Catalan giants as a replacement for Cillessen, just a day after his switch to Valencia.
Hosts Barcelona enjoyed the perfect start, taking the lead with just 2 minutes gone. Mercurial skipper Lionel Messi laid the ball off for De Jong, who in turn sent Sergi Roberto wide. The full-back did well to get into the box, and his cut back was met perfectly by Messi at the near post for an easy finish, Cillessen having no chance against his former side. Valencia, meanwhile, were reduced to shots from distance, Goncalo Guedes firing well over the bar from range after a cross field run allowed him space and time for the shot.
As the visitors began to grow into the game, Denis Cheryshev did well down the left before slipping in Maxi Gomez, Neto doing well to tip the effort wide with a quarter of an hour gone. A minute later they found themselves level from a set piece. From a free kick far left, Daniel Wass swung in a deep cross, and there was Mouctar Diakhaby, completely unmarked at the back post, to head home with Neto stranded.
If anything, rather than giving Valencia renewed hope, the equalizer seemed to spark the home side into life, with Dembélé the first to try his luck, going on a mazy run before his shot was straight into the grateful arms of Cillessen. Minutes later Sergio Busquets chipped a ball over the Valencia back line, finding Coutinho, who shot across goal but Cillessen was able to get a hand to the shot and keep the ball out before the visiting defence then cleared the danger.
The visitors then tried a repeat of the first goal, this time from the opposite side with skipper Jose Gaya swinging in the cross to the far post. Diakhaby was lurking again, but this time Neto was alert to the danger, the Brazilian keeper plucking the ball out of the air. Neto was again called into action on the half hour mark, after neat play from Wass and Guedes released Cheryshev on the left. The Russian winger broke into the box and shot near post, but Neto was again able to parry and prevent any further danger.
A direct free kick from Valencia then gave Daniel Wass another opportunity from a dead ball, this time the stand in defensive midfielder stinging the hands of Neto with his effort, before Barcelona then looked to launch a quick counter, the ball breaking to Dembélé who was lining up to shoot before an excellent block tackle from Gabriel Paulista prevented the danger. Barcelona did reclaim the lead though deep into first half stoppage time, this time Griezmann finding the space on the right, picking up a pass from De Jong, before a cut back allowed Coutinho a simple finish for his first of the season, sending the hosts into the break back in front.
After a fantastic end to end first half, the second half seemed to be played in a far more measured manner, Barcelona keen to keep possession and maintain control of the game, while Valencia could only scrap for half chances. There was little surprise, therefore, when the Catalan side wrapped up the 3 points on the hour mark, a ball from the left finding Griezmann with his back to goal, and his superb reverse ball allowing Sergi Roberto time and space to fire across Cillessen and into the bottom corner. Despite Valencia making several changes, and throwing caution to the wind in a bid to try and haul something back in the game, it proved to be the last real chance of any note, as Barcelona held on to secure a big three points and restore the gap at the top of the table. Barcelona maintain their unbeaten start, moving back 3 points clear at the summit, while skipper Lionel Messi now also finds himself 2 goals clear of Kevin Gameiro, in the race the the pichichi.Share this: