Valencia, May 2 (EFE).- Barcelona mounted a comeback 3-2 road win at Mestalla Stadium against Valencia on Sunday, maintaining its momentum in the race for the La Liga title in a hard-fought duel against a rival that battled without let-up, a contest that finally resolved itself in the second period after the teams were scoreless at the intermission.
The match was played before empty stands due to coronavirus gathering restrictions.
After a first half during which Barcelona dominated play but could not get anything on the board, the home squad scored first in the 50th minute, with Gabriel Paulista doing the honors on a header.
Ronald Koeman’s boys were suddenly on the ropes but demonstrated their fortitude in the face of adversity by answering back quickly, with Leonel Messi bringing things even just seven minutes later, missing on a spot kick but grabbing the rebound from netminder Jasper Cillessen and, in the ensuing melee, sending it into the twine.
Soon thereafter, it was Antoine Griezmann in the limelight for Barca, putting the Catalan squad ahead in the 63rd minute after a header by Frenkie de Jong was rebuffed by Cillessen only to have Griezmann score from close in.
And then, it was Messi on the scene again in the 69th minute to score what proved to be the game-winner, sending in a free kick that brushed the inside of the post and arrowed into the corner.
The contest settled down a bit after that, although Valencia still kept pushing and probing until finally Carlos Soler changed the landscape with a fabulous blast from outside the area in the 83rd minute, whereupon his team recovered its former intensity and rhythm, causing Barcelona some nervous moments but not being able to snatch a draw from the jaws of the defeat.
With the win, Barca is in the No. 3 spot on the La Liga table, level on points with Real Madrid but behind the capital squad because the latter won both El Clasico matches this season. And Koeman’s team is just two points behind league leaders Atletico Madrid, hosting that squad next Saturday at Camp Nou with a chance to jump ahead.
Valencia: Cillessen, Correia, Paulista, Guillamon (Gameiro, m.79), Lato (Diakhaby, m.64), Gaya, Wass, Racic (Christian Oliva, m.79), Soler, Maxi Gomez and Guedes.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Araujo, Pique, Lenglet, Dest (Sergi Roberto, m.75), De Jong, Busquets, Pedri (Ilaix Moriba, m.75), Jordi Alba, Griezmann and Messi.
Referee: Jose Maria Sanchez Martinez showed yellow cards to Valencia’s Racic and Lato and to Barcelona’s Ter Stegen.