Barcelona stumble again setting La Liga alight
Barcelona are level on points with Atletico Madrid and one point ahead of Real Madrid with five games to go after their latest collapse against Valencia.
Full-Time Barça 1 - 2 Valencia
Valencia restored some pride at Camp Nou against a Barcelona who have quite inexplicably and quite spectacularly fallen asunder. Loose passes, miscontrol, imprecision, crosses over the bar, chances a-begging.
Just when you think you know something about football, everything changes completely. La Liga had been given up as gone just two weeks ago, Barça were going into their 40th unbeaten match and were heavy favourites to lead Real Madrid on a merry dance at Camp Nou.
The aura of invincibility and air of inevitability has cleared over the culés and now they are level on points with Atlético Madrid and one point ahead of Real Madrid with five games to go.
Paco Ayerastaran has brought a rare moment of levity in a season that has weighed heavily on the club che, yes they rode their luck, but also might have won by more with cooler heads in front of goal.
At very least, Valencia fans can take away some belief in the future from this performance.
It's all very hard to believe.
Here's how it happened:
Rakitic: "We very hurt because we think we should have won that game".
Min 94 | Full-Time! Barcelona 1 - 2 Valencia. Speechless.
Min 92 | Even Iniesta is lamping it over the top.. What has happened to Barcelona? One minute of extrqa-time left.
Min 89 | Now it's Piqué's turn, he chests down behind the Valencia defence, but schlaffs his half-volley too, it dribbles harmlessly wide. Head in hands. Agony in the culé camp.
Min 87 | Alcacer!! What a miss! Barça carved wide open again but the young striker can't kill it off either. It looks even worse from the replay, gets his feet all wrong and gaffs it off one foot onto the other.. right in front of Barça's welcoming rectangle.
Min 85 | How much luck can one team have? Neymar so close to making it 2-2, then Valencia had a 4 on 3 at the other end after a lightning break but couldn't find the killer punch.. Breathless stuff.
Min 81 | Valencia streak free with Barcelona so high up the pitch, but the chance flickers out through a poor pass.
Min 79 | Luis Enrique is hopping and lepping in the technical area, nervous energy personified.
Min 77 | Messi tries an exact replica of the first goal with Jordi Alba, but Valencia are wise to that one.
Min 75 | Diego Alves! Another top-drawer stop from the Valencia cat. Rakitic worked the space and curled it corner-bound, Alves' wrists to the rescue again.
Min 73 | We're not used to seeing this level of imprecision from Barça.
Min 72 | Now it's Neymar hoofing it out of touch, Messi in some space on that side of the box but the pass is ridiculously overhit.
Min 70 | What is wrong with Jordi Alba? Another terrible touch lets Valencia off the hook.
Min 66 | Exactly what Barcelona needed. Valencia don't look too rattled though, they attack and keep possession well, creating a lovely chance but it's offside. Replay shows Andre Gomez was level.
Min 59 | Messi started it with a sharp pass to Alba and passed his return into Alves' net with his right foot. It looks so easy when you see it done.
Min 59 | GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLL!! Messi scores his 500th goal, and how his team needed it.
Min 52 | Less than half-an-hour left.
Min 51 | Nasty landing for Rakitic, Barça put the ball out but he's up, should be ok.
Min 50 | Barcelona 0 - 2 Valencia
Min 57 | What was that Jordi Alba? The Barça machine needs recalibrating.
Min 55 | Neymar holds on well as Barça put Valencia in a vice, Mustafi heads one clear and Messi is inches from controlling a clear through ball.
Min 53 | Miscontrol by Neymar, mispassed by Messi, Valencia clear. Near-desperate tempo to the game here.
Min 51 | Neymar getting bashed about a bit, Barça are buzzing about ferociously in search of an early goal. Messi over a free-kick in a dangerous position.
Min 48 | Mustafi gets a Suarez stud in the knackers, ouch.
Min 47 | Messi, Suarez and Rakitic manufacture Barça's first chance, but the Swiss-born Croat can't finish it.
Min 46 | Second-Half underway at Camp Nou. No changes.
Unbelievable! The Barça that looked unbeatable a couple of weeks ago has suddenly become oh so vulnerable. Just when Barça's first goal seemed inevitable, los che hit them with a sucker-punch and the blaugrana's never recovered their composure.
To say that Valencia have rode their luck would be a spectacular understatement, but they're two up at Camp Nou.
Diego Alves is on fire and Barça heads have dropped, but this Barcelona side are more than capable of scoring 3 (or more) in a half. Can Paco Ayestaran mastermind a famous victory at Camp Nou? If the second half is even half as good as the first, we're in for a treat.
Min 46 | Half-Time! Barcelona 0-2 Valencia
Min 46 | GOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLL!!! Santi Mina makes it 2 for Valencia! Incredible!
Min 42 | Sergio Roberto suddenly free right of Valencia's box, but he couldn't control the long pass, representative of Barça's night so far, lacking that usual clinical touch.
Min 40 | Suarez was booked for something he said to the ref. It probably wasn't very nice.
Min 39 | Messi!! Alves again.. Inspired! Iniesta dropped it over the top, Messi couldn't get enough on the header to take it past the Valencia keeper. Los che have used up lifetimes of luck already, and the first half hasn't even finished yet.
Min 35 | Pique gets a bit pushy and draws a yellow, that's him out for Barça's next match against Depor..
Min 34 | Barcelona 8-2 Valencia - shots.
Min 33 | Siquiera shanks one wide, he had a huge run-up to it..
Min 28 | UUy yuy yuy... Barça all at sea all of a sudden, Valencia were in again if it hadn't come off Rodrigo's heel.. End to end stuff in an exhilarating match..
Min 27 | Siquiera's cross deflected in off Rakitic with Bravo stranded, they're giving it as an o.g.
Min 26 | GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLL!!! Siquiera!
Min 25 | 2-on-2 break, Neymar backflick to Messi, he warps one goalbound, but Alves flies to his right to keep it out.. Feline!
Min 22 | Suarez! That was harder to head over than to head in.
Min 19 | Valencia don't look any more organised than when a certain señor Neville was staring out of the technical box, and they might still be 1 up. Football, eh?
Min 17 | UFFFF... Rodrigo with a superb chance to put Valencia ahead from a counter, just wide. Should have scored.
Min 15 | Barragan booked for kicking Neymar up the arse.
Min 11 | Suarez come close, then Neymar inches from an extraordinary first-time lob, somehow Alves makes himself tall enough and swats it away. Valencia holding on, the opener looks inevitable here.
Min 7 | Uyyy... Messi all alone at the back post, Suarez finds him, and with the net bracing itself his volley is blocked by Diego Alves
Min 5 | First moment of danger as Barça pin Valencia back. It might be another long night for Valencia if they let Barça get an early goal, remember what happened in the first leg of the Copa del Rey?
Min 3 | Messi tries to set Neymar free on the left with a cross-field curler, but it runs out of play.
Min 1 | Kick-off, Barça playing left to white in their iconic blaugrana, Valencia in white.
Here we go!
Barcelona host Valencia in Sunday evening’s tie (20:30 CET) following a trying few weeks for the Catalan club. After stumbling and rolling out of the Champions League against Atlético Madrid, Luis Enrique’s men have also seen a twelve-point comfort blanket pulled out from under them by rivals Real Madrid, whose thumping of Getafe cut their lead to just one point.
Three precious points tonight will manage to keep the chasing pack – currently baring their teeth – at bay, albeit temporarily. It will also inject a much-needed confidence boost into the side, particularly if the MSN can turn it on after a surprisingly anemic spell in and around the box and in front of goal in recent matches.
Valencia, meanwhile, will look to sucker-punch the Camp Nou with a view to their own mid-table safety net. As the AS Oracle pointed out in his prediction for this game, Paco Ayestaran has hardened the soft underbelly that was previously hanging out under Gary Neville, and “Los Che could go all Guevara on a Barça side reeling against the ropes”.
Barça XI: Bravo; S. Roberto, Piqué Mascherano Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta; Suárez, Messi, Neymar
Valencia XI: Diego Alves; Siquiera, Abdennour, Mustafi, Barragan; Dani Parejo, Enzo Perez, Javi Fuego, Santi Mina, Andre Gomez, Rodrigo
LAST MEETING: Valencia 1-1 FC Barcelona – 10th February 2016 – Copa del Rey
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