Lionel Messi brace leads Barcelona to 4-2 comeback win over Valencia
BARCELONA, Spain -- Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona came from behind to beat 10-man Valencia 4-2 in an entertaining game at Camp Nou on Sunday.
Eliaquim Mangala opened the scoring for the visitors, but soon went from hero to villain when he pulled down Luis Suarez, who had already levelled for Barca, picking up his second booking of the game and giving away a penalty. Messi swept home from the spot, but Munir El Haddadi went straight up the other end to draw Valencia level again before half-time. Messi's second of the game restored Barca's lead, though, before Andre Gomes added the fourth in second-half stoppage time.
They may have been against 10 men for more than half the match, but Barca created chance after chance. Even before Mangala saw red, that was the case, too. On another day they could have scored 10, and Luis Enrique will be pleased with that aspect of his side's performance. A first 90 minutes for captain Andres Iniesta in a long time was also welcome bonus.
This new Barca system is awfully fun but it provides plenty of heart-in-mouth moments for the supporters. They're often caught short at the back -- as happened on plenty of occasions here, including Munir's goal -- and it will be interesting to see how that pans out against better sides and in the latter stages of the Champions League. Also, after conceding twice from corners against Deportivo La Coruna last week, Valencia's first goal also arrived from a set play. Something to work on.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Luis Enrique picked the same side that produced that heroic night against Paris Saint-Germain and it raises the question: is this now his preferred team? The answer is not clear. Rafinha doesn't look at home on the right of the attack, while there may yet open up a space for Jordi Alba to return in some capacity.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 6 -- Both Valencia goals were smart finishes from close range and left the German goalkeeper with no chance. Just before Mangala's opener, the keeper made a good save from Carlos Soler and was alert to keep Munir out later, too.
DF Javier Mascherano, 6 -- Good in possession, set up Messi's second goal and worked harder than anyone, but often exposed when one on one. That is not necessarily his fault, though, as that is the risk Barca have decided to take with this new system.
DF Gerard Pique, 7 -- Once again at home in the middle of the back three as his impressive season continues. The highlight of his performance was perhaps some brilliant defending when left as the last man to stop Munir making it 3-3.
DF Samuel Umtiti, 7 -- When the French defender plays in the league, Barca win. He was left out at Deportivo La Coruna last week and they lost. Back in the side on Sunday, Barca won. That's 17 appearances in La Liga and 17 wins.
MF Sergio Busquets, 6 -- Aside from a couple of stray passes, he was largely on his game here. Kept things ticking over in possession and was well positioned when Valencia tried to counter.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 6 -- Another reliable performance from the Croatian midfielder, who seems to be back in favour following a spell in which he was in and out of Luis Enrique's side. Had a great chance to score, too, but chose to try to pass to Messi when it would have been easier to shoot. Replaced early in the second half.
MF Andres Iniesta, 7 -- There have been questions about his form but, as Luis Enrique said on Saturday, he's been hit with two serious injuries this season. This was the first time he's completed 90 minutes in a league game in 2017 and it looked like he was beginning to re-find his touch.
MF Lionel Messi, 9 -- Scored a penalty at the end of the first half but before then there had been some stunning Messi moments. Quick feet saw him slip between four Valencia defenders only for his shot to curl just over. Continued to terrorise the visitors in the second half, scoring his 41st goal of the season in all competitions and directing Barca's play from his new central position.
FW Rafinha, 5 -- It's not necessarily that Rafinha's a bad player, it's that he's working in the shadows of some of the world's greatest forwards. If Barca are going to stick with this new formation, he's one of the players whose position could come under threat and a top-quality replacement would make a red-hot attack even hotter.
FW Luis Suarez, 8 -- A scintillating first half. Caused Valencia no end of problems, scoring the first goal and winning the penalty that led to Managala's dismissal. There had been questions about the lack of space the new formation left him, but he proved he here he can be the focal point of the attack no matter what his side's shape is. Let himself down in the second period with a glaring miss.
FW Neymar, 8 -- For the first time in a long time, he was the quieter of Barca's South American attacking trio in the first half. Was still able to display quick thinking to take a quick throw-in to set up Suarez's goal. Valencia couldn't deal with him when running at them, either, and he stepped it up a few gears in the second half. The only downside was he was wasteful with his finishing, but struck the woodwork from a free kick and produced a stunning assist for Gomes' goal.
MF Sergi Roberto, 6 -- Came on in place of Rakitic for the last half an hour to huge cheers from Camp Nou, which soon turned into his name echoing around the stadium. This was his first appearance since that PSG winner, after all.
MF Andre Gomes, NR -- Scored his first goal for his new club against his old club, tapping in from close range after brilliant work from Neymar.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.