Messi bags a brace as 10-man Valencia make Barca sweat
Luis Suarez scores one and wins a penalty in entertaining victory at the Camp Nou
Lionel Messi celebrates with his Barcelona teammates after scoring his second goal at the Camp Nou stadium. Photograph: Getty Images
Barcelona 4 Valenica 2
Lionel Messi scored twice as La Liga champions Barcelona saw off a persistent Valencia side, who had Eliaquim Mangala sent off in the first half, to win 4-2 on Sunday and stay on the heels of leaders Real Madrid.
Manchester City loanee Mangala stunned the Nou Camp by heading Valencia in front in the 29th minute but Luis Suarez soon cancelled out the opener following a quick throw-in by Neymar and the Uruguayan then won a penalty as he was hauled down by Mangala, who was sent off for a second booking.
Messi beat penalty-saving expert Diego Alves from the spot for the second time this season to pull Barca level in the 45th minute but Munir El Haddadi, who is on loan from the Catalans, equalised immediately in injury time of the first half.
Barca dominated the second half and took the lead for the second time when Messi smashed the ball past Alves’s near post but the visiting side created one chance to level again which Munir squandered.
Former Valencia midfielder Andre Gomes then scored his first goal for Barcelona to make sure of the points.
Barca are second in the standings on 63 points, two behind Real who have a game in hand.
Meanwhile Diego Godin, Antoine Griezmann and Koke fired fourth-placed Atletico Madrid to a crucial 3-1 victory over Sevilla.
Godin scored with a first-half header before Griezmann lashed in a stunning 25-yard free-kick after the break. Koke tapped into an empty net for the third as Atletico moved to within two points of their third-placed visitors.
Sevilla, seeking to close the gap on Real, only had Joaquin Correa’s consolation to show for their efforts and remain eight points adrift as their already faint title hopes suffered another blow.
The defeat capped a miserable week for Sevilla after they were dumped out of the Champions League by Leicester on Tuesday.