By Cesar Toldra
Valencia, Spain, Feb 20 (EFE).- An effective and pragmatic Barcelona easily overcame Valencia 4-1 on the road at Mestalla Stadium on Sunday before 38,000 spectators in a duel that the Catalan squad virtually put away in the first half with two goals by Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and one by Frenkie de Jong.
The three tallies cleared the way for Barcelona to romp to victory over a Valencia somewhat fragile on defense but who improved and tried to react after the break, although their lone goal by Carlos Toler was too little too late.
Barcelona began the match at speed and with good ball control against a home team that had a hard time getting going, but Jose Bordalas’s squad did accelerate its efforts and managed to match their rivals in terms of tallies in the second half.
Xavi Hernandez’s men kept control of the ball for long stretches and were able to drive deep into Valencia’s area, encountering pretty good defensive action on occasion although that didn’t stop Aubameyang from finding the twine 22 minutes into play on a long pass from Jordi Alba to score his first goal for Barca.
Valencia tried to react to the initial goal and managed to get close to Ter Stegen’s net but were not able to get anything going because Barcelona took full control and scored its second goal in the 31st minute when De Jong got in close and sank the ball.
Seven minutes later, it was Aubameyang again hitting the net and, in effect, sewing up the game and, although Valencia managed to score four minutes before the break, VAR review nullified that goal.
Barca didn’t rest on its first-half achievements, though, and came out after the break fired up for more, with Gavi sending a powerful long shot netward that Valencia’s Mamardashvili knocked away, but the locals narrowed the differential when Soler connected in the 52nd minute, reactivating the squad.
And yet, Valencia still couldn’t manage to mount a real comeback against the powerful Catalans, although they did challenge Ter Stegen several times, and when Pedri scored for the visitors in the 63rd minute that, in effect, ended any hope of eking out even a draw.
Valencia: Mamardashvili, Foulquier, Diakhaby, Alderete (Comert,m.85), Gaya (Lato, m.66), Soler, Ilaix (Racic, m.66), Guillamon (Maxi Gómez, m.46), Bryan Gil, Guedes and Hugo Duro (Marcos Andre, m.85).
Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Dest, Araujo, Eric Garcia (Mingueza, m.46) Alba, De Jong (Pedri, m.59), Busquets, Gavi (Traore, m.81), Aubameyang (Luuk de Jong, m.81), Ferran Torres and Dembele (Nico, m.71).