Lionel Messi’s late penalty seals thrilling win for Barcelona

With the win, Barcelona are currently top of the La Liga table with 19 points.

By: Reuters | Barcelona | Published:October 23, 2016 10:49 am
Football Soccer - Spanish Liga - Valencia v Barcelona - Mestalla Stadium - Valencia, Spain, 22/10/16.  Barcelona's Lionel Messi kicks the ball to score a penalty. REUTERS/Heino Kalis Barcelona’s Lionel Messi kicks the ball to score a penalty. REUTERS/Heino Kalis

Lionel Messi squeezed home a stoppage-time penalty to grab a thrilling 3-2 win for champions Barcelona in a controversial La Liga match at Valencia on Saturday. Talisman Messi scored against Valencia for the 10th season in a row to put the visitors ahead in the 22nd minute although team mate Luis Suarez was in an offside position and obstructing the view of goalkeeper Diego Alves. Earlier, Barca captain Andres Iniesta was carried off on a stretcher due to a knee injury while Sergio Busquets was fortunate not to receive a second yellow card before the break.

Valencia turned the game around in four second-half minutes, Munir El Haddadi equalising against his parent club and Rodrigo Moreno putting the hosts ahead in the 56th.

Suarez lashed the ball home to pull Barca level and after Nani had missed a gilt-edged chance for Valencia, the Uruguayan won a penalty in the dying seconds that Messi sneaked just under the grasp of Alves.

Elsewhere, Espanyol drew 3-3 at home to Eibar, Real Sociedad beat Alaves 3-0 in a Basque derby and bottom club Granada were held 0-0 at home by fellow strugglers Sporting Gijon.

Barca are top of the table on 19 points. Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, both on 18, play on Sunday against Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao respectively.

“A lot of things happened in the game, the worst of all Andres’ injury,” said Barca coach Luis Enrique. “In the end we showed we are able to overcome adversity.”

Valencia’s Mestalla stadium was full for the first time this season as fans welcomed new coach Cesare Prandelli for his maiden home game, having won 2-1 at Gijon the week before.

There were troubling scenes in the 10th minute when Enzo Perez clattered through the back of Iniesta and the much-loved Spain international was given a standing ovation from both sets of supporters as he went off crying in pain.

VENTING FURY

Replacement Ivan Rakitic teed up Messi to beat Alves who was booked for venting his fury when the goal was allowed to stand despite Suarez interfering with play.

Rakitic hit the post at the start of the second half after Alves parried a shot from Neymar and Valencia made Barca pay at the other end as Dani Parejo set up Munir on the edge of the area.

Rodrigo then powered Valencia ahead following a splendid dinked pass by Nani but the lead did not last long.

Suarez pounced after Alves repelled Rakitic’s header and at the end Messi succeeded in the testing task of outwitting penalty-saving specialist Alves, netting his fifth goal in two games.

Troubled Espanyol produced a stirring second-half comeback from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 at home to Eibar and ease the pressure on coach Quique Sanchez Flores.

An own goal by Diego Reyes and simple tap-ins from Sergi Enrich and Kike Garcia put the visitors 3-0 up by halftime.

Espanyol’s Felipe Caicedo was sent off after Hernan Perez and Pablo Piatti had replied for the hosts and Leo Baptistao clinched a point with a thumping drive in stoppage time.

Sociedad notched a third straight home win against Alaves to climb to seventh. Xavier Prieto put the home side ahead midway through the first half before Willian Jose and Carlos Vela made it 3-0.