Valencia 1 FC Barcelona 1

valencia 1-1 barça busquetsBarça had to settle for a point after a complicated game against Valencia at Mestalla tonight. Ever Banega fired Valencia deservedly in front after 33 minutes but a Leo Messi penalty five minutes later after Pedro was brought down by Joao Pereira brought Barça level. Chances fell to both teams in the second half to take all three points but Cesc Fabregas and substitute David Villa missed Barça’s best opportunies while Valencia were denied at the end by a splendid double save by Victor Valdés.

Jordi Roura made only two changes to the team that drew 1-1 at Madrid on Wednesday. Victor Valdés returned in goal while Javier Mascherano replaced Carles Puyol in defence. For Valencia, Vicente Guaita was preferred over Diego Alves in goal while Ernesto Valverde’s decision to play Banega suggests the player was not drunk, just late, for Friday’s training session.

Games at Mestalla are rarely easy and Valencia worked very hard when Barça were in possession to close down space while keeping a compact shape. Barça rarely looked comfortable throughout the game and goal opportunities were scarce, though early on Fabregas wriggled into the area before his shot was deflect for a corner. When Xavi sent the cross over from the left Piqué was free at the near post but he sent his header disappointingly wide.

Guaita has appeared on quite a few lists as a possible substitute for Victor Valdés, but like Osasuna’s Andrés Fernandez last week, he made an early mistake with his footwork, allowing Xavi to chase him down, though the ball bounced off Xavi out towards the corner flag.

valencia 1-1 barça xavi elbowValencia began to create danger at the other end. First Guardado hit a shot well wide from the left and soon after Rami headed over from a corner. Valencia’s pressing was giving Barça problems and there was always the danger of losing the ball in a dangerous position. In the 23rd minute Soldado managed to close down Piqué, and after a couple of bounces in his favour Soldado got a run towards goal which only ended with Mascherano getting a yellow card after bringing him down on the edge of the area. Tino Costa’s free kick went into the wall, Valencia, not for the first time appealed for a handball, but although the ball struck Xavi on the elbow there was clearly no intention.

Barça were struggling to make inroads into the last third of the pitch while at the same time whenever Valencia won the ball they got the ball forward quickly with Bernat, Banega, Guardado and Soldado giving the Barça defence plenty to think about. In the 33rd minute Alba allowed Soldado to slip past and when the cross came in from the right Piqué could only head the ball as far as Banega who controlled just inside the area before shooting low between Piqué and Alves, and past Valdés.

valencia 1-1 barça messi penaltyAt this point of the game Valencia’s lead was deserved. Soldado might have made it 2-0 a couple of minutes later but he failed to get good contact on his attempted overhead kick. Then, when things were beginning to look pretty bad, Messi made his first meaningful contribution, finding Pedro who was clumsily brought down by Pereira sticking in his knee and referee Gonzalez Gonzalez had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot. If Messi’s penalty against Osasuna had been impressive, this effort was even more so, driving the ball at top speed into the top corner. Unstoppable.

One-all and neither keeper had made a save yet. This changed just before half time after Tino Costa dispossessed Iniesta before finding Guardado on the left, the Mexican let fly from outside the area but Valdés saved without too much problem. The problem with our midfield failing to take control continued in the second half. In the 51st minute Fabregas lost the ball which led to Guardado crossing from the left and Soldado heading narrowly wide.

Messi continued to be well controlled by Valencia but then he created Barça’s next scoring chance with one moment of pure genius. Turning on the halfway line somehow picked out an extraordinary forward pass inside the full back that sent Fabregas into the area for a shot that clipped the outside of the post.

Soon after Puyol replaced Mascherano, presumably because he already had a yellow card, but if anything the Barça defence looked more shaky as Soldado’s diagonal runs into space were difficult to control. Valdés had to save from a long shot from Tino Costa, and soon after Costa found Soldado who’d got the wrong side of Puyol but the final shot went well wide.

The game was opening up now with Messi firing one wide at the other end. Soon after an excellent run from Fabregas opened space for Messi on the right of the area but instead of shooting, perhaps because the ball was on his right foot, the Argentinian inexplicable crossed to nobody. Valencia replied with another shot wide from Soldado and then in the 68th minute Guardado got away on the left before pulling the ball back to substitute Sergio Canales whose shot brought a diving save from Valdés, tipping the ball past the far post.

With 18 minutes remaining Roura brought on Villa for Fabregas, with Iniesta moving back to midfield, and the move nearly paid off soon after. Xavi sent an splendid pass into space for Alves’s forward run and when the Brazilian crossed Villa was in an excellent position but his finish was disappointing, sending the ball a foot wide of the far post.

With time running out Valencia appeared to be tiring and there seemed a chance that Barça could steal the win. Iniesta made a delightful turn to dribble in on the right of the area but he was prevented from sending in the killer pass by Ricardo Costa’s last ditch tackle. Then in the 83rd minute Villa sent the ball from the left into Xavi who moved the ball onto the right to Pedro but after cutting back onto his left foot Pedro’s low shot was easily saved by Guaita.

There was one final golden opportunity for Valencia. In the 89th minute Piqué got in a mess near the corner flag, allowing Cissokho to rob him, when the French full back crossed Valdés did well to beat Piatti to the ball at the near post and when the ball broke free to Soldado, Valdés was quick to spring up and dive to his left to parry Soldado’s goalbound effort.

valencia 1-1 barça mascherano yellow card soldadoIn the end we will have to be happy with the point though we cannot take much from the performance. Whether the players were tired or not after the efforts of Wednesday’s clásico I couldn’t say. If anything it was the Valencia players who were tiring more at the end but that was probably due to their greater effort on the night. Basically, I think it’s fair to say we were outfought and outrun tonight and Valencia’s intensity meant we were never very comfortable. Whether things would have been different if we’d made more changes to the team is impossible to say.

There were plenty of reasons for playing our so-called best eleven tonight as it is one of the toughest away games of the season, however, with Adriano, Thiago and Villa as possible options we might wonder how fresher legs might have done if they’d had the chance from the start. However, the way Valencia played tonight I feel it would have been a tough one to win whatever our lineup had been.

Valencia: Guaita; Pereira, Rami, Ricardo Costa, Cissokho; Victor Ruiz, Tino Costa; Bernat (Piatti m70), Banega (Canales m64), Guardado (Jonas m86); Soldado

Barça: Valdés 7.5; Dani Alves 6.5, Piqué 6, Mascherano 6.5 (Puyol m54, 6), Alba 6; Xavi 6 (Thiago m91, –), Busquets 7, Fabregas 6 (Villa m72, 6); Pedro 6, Messi 6.5, Iniesta 7.

Goals: m33 Banega 1-0, m38 Messi (pen) 1-1.

Yellow cards: m23 Mascherano, m40 Cissokho, m47 Soldado, m76 Guardado.

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7 Responses to Valencia 1 FC Barcelona 1

  1. Pingback: Valencia 1 FC Barcelona 1 | amidiabetic

  2. ewe_gb says:

    Lately, I become more and more sceptical about Barca’s performance and the way the team plays. Today as on Wednesday, a lot of the things that were magical against the Malaga La Liga away game were missing. The speed and the accurateness of passing, the intensity in running and the willingness to win the game as well.

    Add to that a far from flawless defense plus an offence that doesn’t score, besides Messi, in front of the goal and I guess it will still be a long road to the La Liga title – I hope I will be proved wrong.

    And I can’t help thinking that the team misses Tito’s instructions and decisions before and during the game quite a lot.

  3. Pingback: Valencia 1 FC Barcelona 1 « Views From The Bullpen

  4. bc9jaCule says:

    Good game from Valencia who had a full week to rest and prepare for the game.

    But, I guess it’s either our guys were fatigued by the hangover of the midweek clasico or Madrid’s loss to Granada a day before that made our players execute the match with so less desire and drive.

    However, I admit I do criticize Valdez sometimes but I won’t hesitate to give him the credits he deserves for saving a point for us ’cause we could have lost at the death last night. Our forwards (Iniesta, Faberegas, Villa, Alexis and Pedro) also need to improve their finishing and not always expect Messi to shoulder the responsibility of scoring the goals because we’ll need that when the Champions League takes center stage again.

    I’ll also like to single out Valdez, Pique, Alba, Xavi and Messi as the performers last night. All others just made up the numbers, with Iniesta particularly busy holding on to the ball for too long, impressing himself only instead of daring those decisive passes he is known of (although I love his dribblings). Well, no qualms, it’s all good, not to worry, but, they should be mindful of Atletico who are 9pts behind.

    Just hoping they don’t overdo it in the internationals this week so as to avoid injuries.

    Visca Barca!!!!!
    Forca Barca!!!!!

  5. layibiyi says:

    Yeah, I have read different opinions of why Roura might have started the 1st eleven. Basically summed up as Valencia away is a tough game and none of the other squad players can guarantee a more positive result.

    But what about the long term effects. We are ahead significantly in the league. Why risk muscle injuries and the like when we have one of our largest squad in years. I remember us using xavi judiciously as recent as last season. Now, he has a hamstring and will be in a race against time to be fully fit for Milan. You might point to Pep resting players in crucial games last season where we dropped points but we never had this much advantage in the league.

    Another bone of contention would be if Roura can guide us for the rest of the season if need be. He’s an assistant manager who wouldn’t want to make any mistakes. Tito is already under a lot of pressure with his treatment. Many players are angling for minutes. I know outsiders and even some cules believe this is a barca team that needs no serious coaching or guidance but all sensible fans know how decisive some coaching decisions have been in this era. They are the kind of things we look back on at the end of the season.

    We have been so good this season and it would be a shame for any injury to put a dent on what has been a remarkable season so far. Even Roura spoke about the lack of freshness after the game.

  6. ewe_gb says:

    I just want to add a comment by Graham Hunter which pretty well summarizes my point of view on the Villa issue and the freshness problems experienced in Valencia:

    “…A couple of weeks ago Xavi Hernandez commented that the side was playing so well that pretty much their only problem was that chances in front of goal were being created and shunned on such a regular basis that the league leaders were failing to kill games off. “We have to put our opportunities away,” he confirmed.

    Then, after the Valencia draw at the weekend, Jordi Roura admitted that his team lacked freshness and could have finished more crisply. So what’s the matter with Barca’s technical corp?

    On the bench they have the man who is Spain’s all-time international goal scorer. On the bench they had a guy who didn’t play against Madrid in the Clasico and thus was fresh. And on the bench they had a guy who had played out of his skin against Osasuna the previous week, working for Messi, creating a couple of goals and looking full of lively invention all night.

    What more do they want — laser eyes, the power of flight and the ability to shout ‘flame on’ and do a Johnny Storm?

    Stranger things have happened than a club deciding they want to ‘mob’ a player until he leaves. Stranger things have happened than a mega-footballer like Messi preferring to play with Pedro and Iniesta up front instead of David Villa.

    But he was one of the motors of Barcelona’s remarkable 2011 season, he very nearly has one goal every two games for the Camp Nou club across 100 appearances, and the last time out with Messi it was clear that the hatchet was buried and Villa’s form was back to its best.

    If Barcelona want to make the business of winning trophies still harder, then it’s their own affair — no skin off our noses.

    Yet in Villa the Catalans potentially have the guy to guide them back to Wembley and to win the Champions League again. If they haven’t broken his spirit before that.”

  7. Pingback: Preview: Valencia vs FC Barcelona (game 3 liga 2013/14) | barçacentral

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