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Messi cuts gap at top to two as 10-man Valencia put to the sword

By Paul Burrows

Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona won a dramatic showdown with Valencia 4-2 to cut the gap to LaLiga leaders Real Madrid to two points.

Barca needed a win after handing the initiative to their rivals in last week's surprise defeat at Deportivo La Coruna. But they were given a huge scare by Valencia, who took the lead through a header from on-loan Manchester City defender Eliaquim Mangala.

The lead lasted just six minutes before a Neymar's throw-in caught Valencia's defence napping and Luis Suarez raced through to equalise.

A minute before half-time Mangala felled Suarez in the area to earn his marching orders and Messi tucked away the spot-kick.

The 10 men then hauled themselves level, with Barca's own player doing the damage. This time Barcelona switched off and Jose Luis Gaya squared for on-loan winger Munir El Haddadi to find the net.

Eight minutes after the break Messi fired the hosts back in front, wriggling past Aymen Abdennour before beating Diego Alves at his near post. Barca then wrapped up a vital victory two minutes from time when Neymar burst down the left and picked out Andre Gomes for a tap-in.

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