Barcelona 5-1 Valencia: Sensational quartet from Messi demolishes visitors on 200th league appearance for Catalan giants
Pep Guardiola's side come from behind to claim three points at Camp Nou after humbling Unai Emery's men in a convincing performance
By Martin Macdonald
Barcelona extended the gap over Valencia to 11 points in La Liga with an impressive 5-1 victory over Unai Emery's side at Camp Nou, thanks to a four-goal tally from Lionel Messi and a strike from Xavi.
Save for a shaky opening 10 minutes, the hosts were in charge for the majority of the match, and perhaps should have won by a bigger margin but found themselves facing an in-form Diego Alves, who made a number of world-class stops throughout the game.
Valencia got off to a flyer and went ahead in the ninth minute when Pablo Piatti took advantage of some indecision in the Barca defensive ranks to give the visitors the lead.
Sofiane Feghouli was given all the space in the world on the right wing to whip a cross into the centre of the box, where Piatti drifted in between Carles Puyol and Sergio Busquets to poke the ball home after getting in front of the on-rushing Victor Valdes.
The Catalans started to find their feet as the first half progressed, however, and equalised in the 22nd minute through Messi, who was making his 200th La Liga appearance.
Pedro was the architect, and showed electric pace down the left to drive forward and slide a pass into the box. Messi picked up the ball after Adil Rami failed to clear and showed composure to slip the ball past Diego Alves from a tight angle.
The Argentine grabbed his second goal of the game five minutes later. Andres Iniesta threaded a pass in behind the Valencia defence for Eric Abidal, who picked out Messi at the far post. Alves made a reflex save from the first effort, but the Ballon d'Or winner stabbed home the rebound into the roof of the net.
It was all Barcelona in the second half, too, and they would have went 3-1 up if not for a truly magnificent save from Alves. Alexis Sanchez clipped a cross into the box for Messi to power a header at goal, but the Valencia goalkeeper somehow tipped the ball onto the crossbar, to add to an already impressive array of stops in the match.
Messi did, however, net his hat-trick goal 15 minutes from time. He latched onto a Cristian Tello effort that was blocked to smash home from 12 yards and give Barcelona a commanding advantage.
The Argentine was in irrepressible form, and scored a fourth of the match five minutes from time when he drove through on goal and masterfully lifted the ball over Alves, to a standing ovation from the majority of the Camp Nou crowd.
Xavi was introduced and completed the rout in the last minute with a delightful lob lifted over Alves from 12 yards.
Barcelona remain second place in La Liga 10 points behind Real Madrid, but further distance themselves from Valencia in third place, with an 11-point gap between the sides having been established this evening.
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