Valencia came from behind to sensationally beat Barcelona 3-2 at Camp Nou on Saturday afternoon.
Lionel Messi started for the Blaugrana as they looked to maintain their lead at the top of the table at home to Valencia. With Andres Iniesta still out, Cesc Fabregas also played in the middle of the park, with Sergio Busquets and Xavi either side. The away side meanwhile, went with a 4-2-3-1 formation, led by Paco Alcacer up top.
And it was the home side who got off to the brighter start, instantly monopolising possession. Some neat passing in the middle soon found its way out to Dani Alves, but the Brazilian full-back’s cross couldn’t find anyone in the box.
It wasn’t long though, before Tata Martino’s men did open the scoring. Alexis Sanchez pounced on a loose ball after Messi had shot at goal, and the Chile international then daintily chipped the ball over Diego Alves and into the back of the net.
Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side though, weren’t content to just sit back and let the Catalans overwhelm them. And almost instantly, they forced Victor Valdes into a smart save – Sofiane Feghouli shooting from 20 yards, with the goalkeeper diving to his right acrobatically.
It was Diego Alves however, who was the busier of the two goalkeepers over the first 45, as he superbly saved from, first, Alexis’ diving header, and then Messi’s driving effort.
That profligacy almost cost Barca late on though, as Ricardo Costa’s header went just wide when he should have at least hit the target from a corner.
And eventually it did with just a minute of the half left, as Feghouli’s cut-back found Dani Parejo, who easily tapped in for an equaliser.
After the break, it wasn’t long before the Blaugrana’s early game dominance was rendered meaningless as Pablo Piatti got up above Gerard Pique from Antonio Barragan’s cross and looped a header over Valdes, into the back of the net.
The Mestalla outfit were in dreamland, but they were quickly brought back down to earth when Ricardo Costa handled inside the area. Messi put the ball on the spot and scored his first goal in the League since September.
But this topsy-turvy game wasn’t over, as with only an hour gone, Los Che regained the lead. Feghouli swept past three Barca defenders inside the area, got to the byline, and cut back for Paco Alcacer to tap in.
Things got even worse for the hosts with just over 10 minutes remaining when Jordi Alba was given marching orders for two yellow cards, as the Blaugrana went down to their first home loss of the season.
Barcelona 2-3 Valencia
Scorers: Alexis 7 (B) Messi pen 53 (B); Parejo 44 (V), Piatti 47 (V), Alcacer 59 (V)
Barcelona: Valdes; Alves, Mascherano, Pique, Alba; Xavi (Iniesta 64), Busquets, Cesc (Tello 77); Alexis, Messi, Pedro
Valencia: Alves; Barragán, R. Costa, Mathieu, Bernat; Oriol, Javi Fuego; Feghouli, Parejo, Piatti (Cartabia 88); Alcácer (Vargas 71)
Red card: Alba 78 (B)