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Match Analysis: Barcelona 2-0 Valencia

Sports Mole dissects the 90 minutes of action as Barcelona record a 2-0 win over Valencia in La Liga.

Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi scored the goals as Barcelona beat Valencia 2-0 in La Liga on Saturday.

Valencia had a host of opportunities in a first period that also saw Dani Parejo miss a penalty, but an early strike from Suarez and a second-half stoppage-time effort from Messi secured all the points for the Catalan outfit.

The result initially moved Barcelona five points clear at the summit, but Real Madrid's victory over Malaga has left the gap at two points with six games remaining.

Here, Sports Mole dissects the 90 minutes of action between the two sides.

Match statistics

Shots: 10
On target: 4
Possession: 69%
Corners: 6
Fouls: 18

Shots: 11
On target: 3
Possession: 31%
Corners: 3
Fouls: 17

Was the result fair?

If this question had been posed at the interval then there would only have been one answer. It would be no exaggeration to say that Valencia should have been two or three goals ahead at the break such was their dominance, but missed opportunities and a poor start saw them trail 1-0 after the first 45 minutes. Barcelona were much improved in the second period and restricted Los Che to very few opportunities in the latter stages. Instead, it was the home side that pressed forward and eventually scored a second on the counter when Messi was left all alone just inside his own half of the field.

When reviewing the match as a whole, a score draw would have been a fair result. Valencia had the better of the first, but Barcelona were the better side in the second 45 minutes. The fact that the hosts added a second goal late on suggests that it was a comfortable home victory, but that was far from the case. On another day, Valencia would have taken at least a point from the Camp Nou, but at this level of football, mistakes - in terms of missed opportunities - are usually punished.

Barcelona's performance

Following their Champions League exploits during the week, head coach Luis Enrique made five changes to his XI, with Claudio Bravo, Dani Alves, Jeremy Mathieu, Adriano and Xavi all returning to the team. Javier Mascherano moved into a midfield role alongside Sergio Busquets and it did not work for the first 45 minutes. The hosts led 1-0 at the break, but they were entirely outplayed in the first period as Valencia dominated the battle in the middle of the park. Ivan Rakitic was introduced at the interval, however, and that immediately allowed the host to gain more control in central areas.

Barca only had one attempt on goal in the first period, but that number rose to four in the second, where they had much more of the game. Neither side created much after the break, but Messi hit the crossbar with a rasping free kick and the home team always offered the impression that they were going to score the game's second goal. The statistics demonstrate that Barca dominated possession, but they did struggle to create clear chances for much of the game. It appeared that one goal would separate the teams, but Barca had their second in the fourth minute of stoppage time when Messi ran through all alone and eventually converted at the second time of asking. It was a massive three points at this stage of the season.

Valencia's performance

There were no real surprises when the teamsheets were handed in and Valencia boss Nuno had recalled star centre-back Nicolas Otamendi from suspension. Once again, Paco Alcacer was preferred to Alvaro Negredo in attack, while Rodrigo and Sofiane Feghouli offered pace and invention in wide areas. Nuno would have wanted a fast start, but the visitors were 1-0 behind inside the first minute when Suarez found the back of the net. The response from Los Che, however, was incredible. They had a golden chance to level from the penalty spot after 10 minutes, but Parejo was denied. The pressure did not end there as Alcacer hit the post in addition to passing up a couple of excellent chances, while Rodrigo was also a threat.

Valencia's first-half performance was as good as they have played all season, but it did not come as much of a surprise when Barcelona improved and Los Che did not have much of the second half. Rodrigo had a couple of half-chances, but the forward failed to meet a cross, before bringing a smart save from Bravo. Aside from that, it was a half of Barcelona possession. Los Che must be credited for their defensive work in the second period, with Otamendi having another outstanding game, but ultimately they were made to pay for missed chances in the first 45 minutes and left with nothing for their efforts.

Sports Mole's man of the match

Nicolas Otamendi: On his return from suspension, the Argentine defender was absolutely sensational for Valencia. The centre-back had to deal with Messi on a number of occasions in the second period and he was on hand to answer the call. Otamendi was also strong in the air and simply did not put a foot wrong. He did not deserve to be on the losing team.

Biggest gaffe

It was a story of missed opportunities for Valencia and their captain Parejo must take some of the blame. Los Che had the perfect chance to draw level from the penalty spot after 10 minutes, but Parejo's effort was saved by Bravo. Goalkeepers must always be credited in these situations, but it was a poor and tame effort from the Spaniard. A goal at that stage would have put a different complexion on the game.

Referee performance

As expected, referee Jose Gonzalez was extremely busy at the Camp Nou, but the Spaniard had a solid match. He issued seven yellow cards in total, but it was a game that needed his intervention on a number of occasions. Gonzalez was also correct to award Valencia a first-half penalty following a clumsy challenge from Gerard Pique. Neither manager will have many complaints with his display.

What next?

Barcelona: Barca welcome Paris Saint-Germain for the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday – holding a 3-1 lead from the first leg. Their next league game is the Catalan derby away to Espanyol next Saturday afternoon.

Valencia: Next up for Valencia is a home game against Granada a week on Monday.

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Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi vies with Valencia's French midfielder Sofiane Feghouli during the Spanish league football match Valencia CF vs FC Barcelona at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia on November 30, 2014
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