Barça really let their hair down against Valencia. They enjoyed themselves and made the rest of us enjoy ourselves; furthermore, Valencia’s intensity and tenacity made it an even more fascinating contest. Valencia refused to throw in the towel, levelled twice and kept the score board at 3-2 right up until the final moments; they stopped their hosts from closing the game, and the possibility that it could quite easily end in a draw only added extra intrigue. The tension only abated just before regulation time was up when Neymar set off on a wonderful run to finish off a thrilling move - in a match which had been full of them – changing pace as he hugged the touchline, showing the ball to Garay then shielding it, until he burst into a sprint right up to the byline to tee up André Gomes, laying up the ball on a silver platter to make up for all of the whistling he had been subjected to from the stands.
Iniesta back to his best
It was a delightful end to a fabulous game in which we saw Iniesta back at his best, showing timing, vision and those characteristic, almost skater-like dodges. Messi was practicing his own, unique brand of wizardry, Luis Suárez prowled… the whole stadium was in resonance with the marvellous football on display - it was as though the PSG night hadn’t ended – this was the continuation. On seeing themselves ‘readmitted’ to the Champions League, to put it one way, Barça have rediscovered themselves. They’re back playing with optimism, enjoying their football again with Messi, with encouragement from the stands to the point where even André Gomes, joined the party to sweep home the winning goal just before the whistle.
Sevilla, the other side of the Champions League coin
Earlier on Sunday we had witnessed the flipside effect on Sevilla. The Champions League has wiped them out. There was not a trace of that dynamic, aggressive and buoyant side that we saw not so long ago. They looked like a ragdoll in Atlético’s hands, and the Rojiblancos are now just two points behind and threatening to snatch third place. Griezmann was the star of the show, Torres reappeared at last and the Calderón treated him and El Cholo to a rousing ovation. The match was a fiesta for the Atléticos, with a radiant sun beaming down and the stands in joyous mood it merely compounded what turned into a miserable afternoon for Sevilla, who are still smarting from their elimination from Europe, with the two penalty misses and three attempts which struck the woodwork. But then as we all know only too well – at times, football is a state of mind...