Barcelona (FCB).- Not even Mestalla could resist against the dramatic march of Guardiola’s side. The Catalans won away to the third placed club in a vibrant encounter in which they gradually got more and more into their usual rhythm, though perhaps without the flair we have got used to seeing from them.
It was only misfortunate in front of goal that prevented Barça from taking a first half lead against a Valencia side that showed plenty of ambition, but ultimately achieved very little. Messi, in combination with Adriano, finally broke the deadlock in the second half, making it twelve wins out of thirteen on the road. This colossal victory temporarily puts FCB ten points clear of Real Madrid, who play tomorrow.
Barça started with an unusual line-up, with Busquets playing at centre back and Adriano to his left. As the visitors adjusted to the conditions, Valencia dominated the early game territorially, but not in terms of the play. Yet Barça didn’t look as comfortable as usual, although it still only took nine minutes for Messi to find himself in a perfect position, from where he would not normally be expected to miss. But not only did he squander that one, but also two more, with home keeper Guaita and his defence managing to keep the trouble at bay.
Improving all the time
The Barça morale was now higher, and although they struggled to control the possession against a team that was intent on doing the same, it was always the Catalans that had the upper hand. Messi found himself one on one with Guaita once again, but his deft chip was too high. Valencia were still alive, and had their keeper to thank for that, who again showed his worth by saving a point blank strike from Villa four minutes before the break.
Half time changes
Unai Emery made changes at half time by ordering his team not to play so deep, and sending on Soldado to look for counter attacks. One of these was led by Pablo Hernández, whose cross bounded dangerously across the six yard box without anybody managing to get on the end of it. Messi responded shortly after with yet another effort that just went wide, and by now the game reached fever pitch. The home fans, who had yet to see their team lose this in 2011, were going wild and seemed convinced that their players would eventually produce the goods. With a quarter of an hour to play, it was still anybody’s game.
Messi clinches it
There was also a tactical battle going on between the respective benches, and Guardiola opted to send on Pedro and switch back to the usual 4-3-3. That seemed to be the impulse the team required, and Messi finally found the net in the 76th minute after rapidly pouncing on an assist from Adriano. There is just no stopping Barça these days, and the win means they have broken yet another all-time league record by going 20 away games without defeat.
0-1 Messi (min 76)