Barcelona avoided a European hangover by beating Valencia 2-1 at the Nou Camp following their extremely disappointing 3-0 loss to Roma which saw them get knocked out of the Champions League.
It was vital Barca continued their excellent league form which has seen them go unbeaten in all 31 league games prior to Saturday’s game. Valencia came into the game in wonderful league form too, unbeaten in their last nine games.
And it was Valencia who started the first 15 minutes of the encounter as the much better team, posing Barcelona a major threat on the counter attack. Goncalo Guedes stung the fingertips of Ter Stegen in the opening minutes, but a moment of quality from Philippe Coutinho put Barca 1-0 up against the run of play.
The ex-Liverpool man started the match in an inside right midfield position, and found himself floating into dangerous pockets in the 15th minute before sliding a perfectly timed through ball into Luis Suarez for the Uruguayan to tuck the ball in at the near post.
However, the breakthrough didn’t spark Barcelona into dominance as you’d expect, as Valencia continued to be the more threatening side until the half-time break. Their bold approach was paying off, causing the Catalan club a lot of problems, but this time it was a Barcelona player who would create a clear cut chance for them.
Ter Stegen, who is usually so assured with the ball at his feet, was under no immediate pressure before playing a poor pass out which eventually fell to Rodrigo, who failed to capitalise on the massive chance as the German goalkeeper redeemed himself with a fine save tipped onto the woodwork.
Valencia squandered another huge chance just after the break, a slip from Samuel Umtiti left Barcelona exposed, Santi Mina squared the ball to Rodrigo who shot past Ter Stegen but Gerard Pique was there to clear the ball off the line.
Just one minute later and Samuel Umtiti redeemed himself, just like his teammate Ter Stegen did in the first half. Coutinho was the provider yet again delivering an out swinging corner, the French centre-back managed to rise the highest with a powerful header which only left Neto to parry the ball into the side-netting.
A couple of acrobatic attempts from Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi came very close to putting the game out of sight, but a nervy last five minutes was in order after substitute Ousmane Dembele flew in on Jose Gaya in the box, a penalty was awarded. Ter Stegen’s rollercoaster afternoon continued as Dani Parejo’s penalty slipped under his grasp frustratingly.
A late Denis Suarez one on one was denied by Neto but in the end it didn’t matter. It was perhaps a harsh result on a good performance from Valencia at the Nou Camp, but Barca will just be delighted to be one win closer to an unbeaten La Liga season.