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Messi at the double in Barca’s win

Madrid, Mar 20 (Agencies)
Published on 20 Mar. 2017 11:19 PM IST
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Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona kept their La Liga title hopes alive with a scrappy 4-2 victory at home to 10-man Valencia on Sunday night.
In a very erratic performance, Barca fell behind early on to an Eliaquim Mangala header but levelled the game through Luis Suarez. Mangala then went from hero to villain as he was sent off for a professional foul on Suarez and Messi scored from the penalty spot.
However, Luis Enrique’s men struggled to adapt defensively to their 3-4-3 formation and Munir, who is on loan at Valencia from Barca, sensationally equalised just before half-time. The visitors dug in, but Messi and Andre Gomes scored in the second half to win the points. The victory closes the gap on leaders Real Madrid to just two points, although Zinedine Zidane’s side have a game in hand.
Messi had an early effort blocked on the line before tip-toeing around three defenders and curling a shot narrowly over, and Barca appealed for a penalty to no avail when Joao Cancelo tripped Neymar.
But the hosts still looked vulnerable at the back and were given a warning when Carlos Soler forced a smart save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Munir then broke in behind his parent club’s defence, forcing Ter Stegen to come out to block.
And from the corner Valencia took the lead, Manchester City loanee Mangala rising in the area to nod home Daniel Parejo’s corner. However, the lead lasted just six minutes before Neymar’s quick throw-in caught the Valencia defence napping and Suarez raced through to equalise.
A minute before half-time, Mangala tugged back Suarez in the area to earn his marching orders before Messi tucked away the spot-kick. But the drama did not end there as the 10 men immediately hauled themselves level, with Barca’s own player doing the damage.
This time Barcelona switched off at the back and Jose Luis Gaya squared for Munir to find the net, prompting a distinctly muted celebration.
But eight minutes after the break, Messi fired the hosts back in front, wriggling past Aymen Abdennour before beating Alves at his near post.
Neymar almost got onto the scoresheet with 14 minutes left but his free-kick struck the post. But Barca wrapped up the victory two minutes from the end when Neymar burst down the left and picked out Andre Gomes for a tap-in.

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