Lionel Messi scores twice as Barcelona are held by Valencia
The LaLiga leaders fell 2-0 behind at the Nou Camp before Messi’s magic helped rescue a point.
Lionel Messi’s two goals salvaged a point for Barcelona but for once the Argentinian could not conjure up a victory as they were held to a 2-2 draw at home to Valencia.
The hosts were 2-0 down after 32 minutes and, not for the first time, relied upon some magic from the five-time world player of the year, who followed up his first-half penalty with a brilliant curling equaliser.
But despite Messi’s 11th goal in his last nine matches in all competitions, Barcelona’s run of eight successive LaLiga wins came to an end against an excellent Valencia side, who stunned the hosts early on.
Within two minutes they had rattled the frame of the goal with Dani Parejo’s shot parried by Marc-Andre Ter Stegen into the path of Denis Cheryshev, who beat the goalkeeper with his angled shot but not the far post.
Parejo was pulling the strings for the visitors and blazed over another good opportunity before Barcelona produced a response with Philippe Coutinho cutting in from the left to force Neto into a low save with a 25-yard shot.
Valencia’s goalkeeper was also forced to tip over Sergi Roberto’s cross which was destined for Luis Suarez at the far post but, just as the hosts were starting to build some pressure, they fell victim to a sucker punch.
The validity of Parejo’s challenge on Messi on the edge of the Valencia penalty area was debatable but the speed in which the ball was transferred from back to front was almost instantaneous.
Rodrigo Moreno drove down the middle of the pitch unchallenged and slipped a pass for Kevin Gameiro to fire home first time.
Neto clawed away Coutinho’s cross which deflected off Ezequiel Garay’s chest before Valencia doubled their lead.
With centre-back Gerard Pique off the pitch having a head injury treated, Sergi Roberto sent Daniel Wass tumbling as they challenged for Cheryshev’s cross and Parejo converted from the spot.
Messi pulled one back with a 39th-minute penalty of his own after Nelson Samedo was fouled by Toni Lato, becoming the first player in Europe’s top five leagues to register 20 league goals.
Sergi Roberto hit the post and Messi almost equalised with a superb volley on the run as Barcelona began to dominate.
A minute into the second half Messi forced Neto into a low save, although Ter Stegen produced a better effort one-on-one with Rodrigo from another counter-attack on the hour.
The Valencia forward was then left to regret a sliding miss at the far post as Messi struck again.
Suarez created panic in the visitors’ defence and Arturo Vidal backheeled a loose clearance to the Argentinian who took a touch before curling a shot around Garay and inside the post.
However, the cheers around the Nou Camp were silenced when Messi retreated to the sidelines for treatment on what appeared to be a dead leg.
Messi completed 90 minutes but he, and therefore Barcelona, were much more subdued from the point of his return.
The result allows second-placed Atletico Madrid, playing on Sunday, the chance to close the gap on leaders Barca to three points.