Goals from Kevin Gameiro and Daniel Parejo handed Valencia a healthy 2-0 first-half lead at Camp Nou on Saturday night. The night was meant to be a hellish nightmare for the Blaugrana, but instead, it turned into a testament to Lionel Messi’s genius.
Barcelona looked to be on the backfoot from the very beginning. They didn’t seem to have the tools to cope with Valencia’s relentlessness and inevitably gave away the opening goal. Valencia’s second — a sweetly struck penalty — took the wind out of Barcelona’s sails. They needed some inspiration to turn the match around, and sure enough, their ever-reliable talisman answered.
Lionel Messi's last 16 games in LaLiga:
The last time he played and wasn't involved in a goal was September. 🤪 pic.twitter.com/y4PznjcSRC
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 2, 2019
A foul on Nelson Semedo handed Barcelona the opportunity to cut the deficit from 12 yards out. Lionel Messi, unhesitantly, stepped up to the plate and rattled Murara Neto net. In the second half, Valencia did their best to hold on to their one-goal advantage and put everybody behind the ball. Messi, who excels in exploiting little pockets of space, struggled to make inroads into the visitors’ box. Thankfully for the hosts, their skipper also excels in making the most out of every situation. In the 64th minute, the Argentinian picked up the ball at the edge of the area, found just enough room to turn and curl an unstoppable effort past a helpless Neto. It took the man only 32 minutes to turn the game on its head, with limited support from his decorated team-mates.
Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona salvaged on Saturday, but the hard-fought draw once again exposed their dependency on their skipper. Having a player of Lionel Messi calibre at your disposal is a privilege in itself, but the Catalan outfit currently look alarmingly dependent on his brilliance, at the moment. Earlier in the season, when Lionel Messi was forced out of action with a fractured arm, Luis Suarez stepped up to the plate and led by example. But the last few weeks haven’t been too kind on the Uruguayan. Players like Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho are undoubtedly outstanding, but they still don’t have the quality to become a beacon a hope when needed.
👑 11th straight season in which #Messi has scored 20 @LaLigaEN goals.
✅ 2008/09 (23)
✅ 2009/10 (34)
✅ 2010/11 (31)
✅ 2011/12 (50)
✅ 2012/13 (46)
✅ 2013/14 (28)
✅ 2014/15 (43)
✅ 2015/16 (26)
✅ 2016/17 (37)
✅ 2017/18 (34)
✅ 2018/19 (20, for now…)
🔵🔴 #BarçaValencia pic.twitter.com/3eNbwSSMii
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) February 2, 2019
Even in the Copa del Rey, Messi was instrumental in wins over Levante and Sevilla. Barcelona came out second best in the first leg both against Levante and Sevilla, but Messi’s brilliance stopped them from crashing out, twice. Valverde’s side are happy and fortunate to have the most successful ‘hail mary’ pass at their disposal, but it probably won’t be long before their luck eventually runs out.
Also Read: 6 lesser known facts about Messi
Last night, the 31-year-old picked up a knock in the final minutes of the match which required a bit of medical assistance. With the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final against Real Madrid just three days away, Messi’s knock is bound to give some sleepless nights, but the manager is hopeful about fielding him on Wednesday.
“I don’t know exactly what he has,” the Barca boss said in his post-match press conference, as quoted by Standard.
“We will have to wait to see what medical staff say. If he’s in good shape, he’ll play on Wednesday.”
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 2, 2019
With last night’s double, Messi — 21 goals — became the first player in Europe’s top leagues to reach 20 league goals for the season. Barcelona can’t help looking up to their captain for inspiration, but it’s also their responsibility to give him the support he needs. So far, Messi has been flawless, but Valverde would be wise to prepare an alternative system to churn out results — a system that keeps the club’s record goalscorer from burning out.