Barca’s 31-game unbeaten run brought to an end by Alcacer’s winner
Barcelona’s run of 31 games unbeaten in the league at home came to an end on Saturday when they were beaten 3-2 by Valencia.
Having won their last 26 domestic matches at the Camp Nou they paid the price for squandering first half chances and allowing defensive frailties to be exposed.
Manchester City coach Manuel Pellegrini might be watching this game a few times between now and February 18 – it contained so many of the weaknesses he will hope to expose when the two meet in the Champions League this month.
Stunned: Valencia took a 2-1 lead second into the second half through their Argentine forward Pablo Piatti
It’s over: Lionel Messi reacts as Barcelona’s 31-game unbeaten home run in the league came to an end
Barcelona: Valdes. Alba, Mascherano, Pique, Alves, Fabregas (Tello 76), Busquets, Hernandez (Iniesta 65), Pedro, Messi; Sanchez
Substitutes not used: Pinto, Bartra, Song, Adriano, Sergi Roberto
Scorers: Alexis 7, Messi (pen) 51
Booked: Jordi Alba, Mascherano, Busquets
Sent off: Jordi Alba
Valencia: Carreira, Bernat, Mathieu, Costa, Barragan, Jonas, Piatti (Fede 87), Parejo (Michel 90+3), Romeu, Feghouli, Alcacer (Vargas 73)
Substitutes: Guaita, Ruben Vezo, Jonas, Portu
Scorers: Parejo 44, Piatti 46, Alcacer 58
Booked: Carreira, Costa, Parejo
Referee: Pedro Jesus Pérez Montero
As well as conceding three Barcelona also suffered their first sending off of the season with Jordi Alba dismissed against his former club.
And they cannot complain about refereeing decision in a game where they were thrown a second half lifeline by a generous penalty against Ricardo Costa.
Barça should never have needed lifelines after dominating the first half.
The players gathered in the centre-circle for the minutes silence for Luis Aragones before kick-off with four of Barcelona’s starters having been part of the squad he coached to the European Championship in 2008.
And one of those, Xavi, posed the first threat with a corner that Sergi Busquets headed over. Valencia keeper Diego Alves came out bravely to stop Alexis connecting with a long ball out from the back. And then saved again from the Chilean who this time was in an offside position.
On seven minutes the Champions took the lead. The ball fizzed around the Valencia penalty area and when a wall pass between Fabregas and Pedro ran to Messi he played it out to Alexis at the back post and from the tightest of angles he scored over Diego Alves into the roof of the net.
Against the run of play: Daniel Parejo levelled for Valencia on the stroke of half-time after Barcelona had dominated the opening period
Early lead: Barcelona had gone a goal up through Alexis Sanchez after just six minutes
All square: Lionel Messi scored from the penalty spot to bring the scores level at 2-2 on 51 minutes
Pique then went off to change his boots after slipping on the wet surface and was not allowed back on at the next stoppage to whistles from home supporters. It seemed the referee would provide more opposition to Barcelona than Valencia.
Messi had a shot saved by Diego Alves and then apologised to Jordi Alba who he should have passed to. Another shot from Messi was turned away for a corner and from Xavi’s kick Alves shot wide from distance.
Tangled: Messi ends up in the back of the net after missing a chance
Midfield duel: Xavi competes for the ball with Valencia’s Barragan
Crowded out: Lionel Messi loses the ball as Valencia captain Ricardo Costa (left) and Jeremy Mathieu (right) close in
MESSI’S AMAZING RECORD ENDS
Today was the first time Lionel Messi has lost a match at the Nou Camp after scoring.
Mathieu, who was linked with Barcelona in the summer, then gave the ball straight to Messi who played it to Xavi. The midfielder picked out Pedro and from his pass to Messi, Diego Alves had to save again. But Barça could not make their dominance pay and suffered for their squandered chances.
Valencia first threatened from a corner which Valdes came for and got nowhere near only for Ricardo Costa to somehow head wide of the empty goal.
Barcelona were then caught three against five at the back when Busquets failed to win the ball in midfield. Dani Parejo surged through and, after exchanging passes with Feghouli, scored past Valdes.
Heads on: Alexis Sanchez powers the ball towards goal during a first half in which Barcelona dominated
Almost: Alexis Sanchez came close to beating Valencia goalkeeper Diego Alves during the opening minutes before getting on the scoresheet
Three minutes into the second half and Barça were behind; with their weakness in the air exposed. Barragan’s cross was flicked on by Paco Alcacer for Piatti who outjumped Alves to score – Piatti and Alcacer are probably La Liga’s smallest strikers. The Catalans will have to improve against Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko.
The lead lasted all of six minutes thanks to Messi and referee Pedro Perez Montero who pointed to the spot after the ball hit Costa on what appeared to be the shoulder. Messi ruthlessly hammered home the penalty into the roof of Diego Alves’ net.
Any thoughts that that might end Valencia’s resistance disappeared when they scored next. Feghouli got to the byline after Busquets was beaten in the tackle and his cross found Alcacer who shot past Valdes unmarked.
Tipped over: Diego Alves makes a save as Gerard Pique looks on
Paying their respects: A minute’s silence was observed before kick-off in memory of former Spain national team coach Luis Aragones, who died on Saturday
Happy Chinese New Year: A green dragon on the pitch to celebrate the dawn of the Year of the Horse
Barcelona brought on Andres Iniesta for Xavi and Valencia keeper Diego Alves was almost caught out trying to dribble around Busquets but Valencia were holding out and looking very dangerous on the break.
Barcelona’s attempts to get back in the game were dealt another blow when a deliberate foul from Jordi Alba to block a counter attack earned him his second yellow. That made the difficult impossible though there was still time for Messi to shoot just wide from the edge of the six-yard box after Iniesta’s backheel.
‘It wasn’t a penalty,’ said Valencia manager Antonio Pizzi of the kick awarded against Costa. ‘It hit his shoulder. But in the end it did not affect the result.’
Barcelona coach Tata Martino said: ‘If you look at the first half an hour of the game it is very hard to explain the way the match turned. We made mistakes and losses of concentration and they took full advantage.’
Barcelona have now taken just five points in last four games and for the first time in 107 games Messi knows what it is like to score in the Camp Nou and still lose the game. Barcelona could be third by Sunday night if Atletico Madrid beat Real Sociedad and Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao.
Source : Daily Mail