Valencia back to best against Barca
Valencia returned to top form as they brushed aside a below par Barcelona 3-0 at the Mestalla on Thursday evening. The league leaders came into this one under some pressure, having drawn their last 2 games, and with Real Madrid winning 2-0 against Sevilla the previous evening, courtesy of goals from Mendy and Hazard, the current holds had moved within 3 points of Valencia ahead of the game. Valencia were once again without Kevin Gameiro although they were able to welcome back fit again José Gayà, while Gabriel Paulista also returned from suspension. Maxi Gómez was also back in the starting XI after his recent rest. The visitors were without Ansu Fati with a pulled calf, opting to start with the mercurial Lionel Messi leading the line.
As expected from 2 sides with such quality up front, there was an attacking flow to the start of the game, as initially Dembélé tried his luck before Cillessen then picked out Nicolás De La Cruz, who went on a mazy run before dragging his shot just wide, all within the opening 60 seconds of the match. It was a similar story minutes letter, Musah winning the ball in the middle of the park, finding Gonçalo Guedes who initially beat Lenglet but was then denied by a well timed tackle by Junior Firpo, while at the other end Dembélé again provided the threat, this time firing over the bar. Barcelona were then dealt a blow as they lost Lionel Messi to injury just 15 minutes in, although they were able to call on Antoine Griezmann, a more than capable replacement for the Argentinian striker.
The hosts were handed the opportunity to go in front just inside the opening half hour, playing out from the back Wass found Guedes, who had dropped deep to receive the ball, and when he then turned and drove into the area on the right he drew the foul from Clement Lenglet, the ref having no hesitation in pointing to the spot and VAR agreeing with the decision. With regular penalty taker Kevin Gameiro still sidelined, Maxi Gómez stepped up and fired into the bottom corner, Ter Stegen guessing the right way but unable to prevent the hosts taking the lead.
After the break, Valencia looked the more likely to extend their lead, and thought they had doubled the advantage after 56 minutes when they once again had the ball in the net. From a move beginning at the back, De La Cruz, Soler and Musah were all causing the Barcelona defence problems with their movement, the ball being worked well between the trio before Soler eventually spotted the run of Maxi Gómez, a superb ball into the box being finished from an acute angle, only for the flag to go straight up. VAR replays showed the Uruguayan had gone fractionally early and the decision once again from the officials was correct.
Valencia did double their lead 13 minutes later, and there was no doubting this time. A Wass throw-in on the right was cleared by Junior, Musah recovering and driving forward before finding De La Cruz. Dest originally blocked the winger and cleared, but he was then caught out by Gayà. The full back used Maxi Gómez on the overlap, and this time the goalscorer hung up a delightful cross to the far post, where winger Jason coming in from the right hand side was able to get up above Junior and loop his header beyond Ter Stegen, his first goal of the season giving the home side some breathing space.
The result was put beyond doubt with 15 minutes to go after a classic counter attack from the league leaders. Collado broke down the left for Barcelona, but his driven effort at goal was easily held by Jasper Cillessen. The former Barcelona keeper hit a long ball forward for Maxi Gómez, who turned his man and drove down the left hand side again, stretching the Barcelona defence before slipping a ball into the area. Fellow front man Gonçalo Guedes reacted a split second before Junior, allowing himself the time and space to latch on to the through ball and fire into the bottom corner beyond Ter Stegen. Although it was a tight call, VAR showed that Guedes had timed his move to perfection, wrapping up a massively important 3 points for Los Che.
The result sees Valencia once again move 6 points clear of Real Madrid in second place, with the pair set to square off in the Copa Del Rey final in just 2 days time, Real benefitting from an extra day’s recovery following their game against Sevilla before the showpiece final on Saturday evening, at the ground of neighbours Atlético Madrid.Share this: