Valencia 1-1 Barcelona: La Liga — as it happened

Lionel Messi equalised for Barcelona after Ezequiel Garay’s early goal but the champions’ winless run extended to four Liga matches

Full-time: Valencia 1-1 Barcelona

That makes it four games without a win for Barcelona in La Liga. That means Sevilla are top of the league, which makes for an interesting campaign so far. Messi’s goal was typically excellent but he was nowhere near the form he showed against Tottenham. Valencia defended very well, with Gaya and Garay, the goalscorer in the second minute, both excellent.

90 mins +2: Semedo gives away a cheap foul as Cheryshev goes back to tackle. That should be that. And it is.

90+1 mins: Barcelona looking frustrated and Valverde’s face is most displeased as his team toils.

90 mins: Dembele found space, which has been at a premium, but could not beat Neto. Suarez looked anguished as the ball failed to fall loose for him. There are two added minutes at full-time.

89 mins: Valencia sat deep, very deep, with a shield in front of their back four. Messi has not given up just yet, but time is running low.

88 mins: Final change for Barcelona: Arthur is coming off, and Rafinha is coming on.

86 mins: Messi is forced to his right foot, just like his previous chance, and can only deliver a pea-roller to Neto. He keeps knocking on the door, though, and it takes a Garay tackle to stop Messi squirming through.

85 mins: The time for a final push is coming. Valencia have kept their shape well under what has not exactly been an onslaught but has been heavy pressure nonetheless.

84 mins: Coutinho and Barcelona: it’s not quite coming off, is it? Shades of Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez shrinking in the shadow of Messi.

83 mins: Dembele is imminent, but has not been able to make his way on to the field. Valverde eventually brings him on and it is no surprise to see Coutinho leave the field.

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81 mins: Valencia get some time to “rest on the ball” as Brendan Rodgers calls it. Cheryshev, who has put a shift in, wins a corner. Pique heads behind for another corner. Both are cleared away from danger for Barcelona.

80 mins: The pressure is on now. Messi saw a glimmer of a chance, having taken the ball down with his chest. He cuts inside but cannot hit the target.

79 mins: Kondogbia’s day is done and he looks tired as he leaves the field to be replaced by Arsenal legend Francis Coquelin.

78 mins: Messi, Suarez and Coutinho try to link up. Gabriel and Suarez clash, and Suarez goes to the floor. No penalty. Another attempt to hoodwink the ref has failed.

76 mins: Barcelona now dominating and Valencia resorting to the tactical foul. Legs are getting tired and this is where mistakes creep in.

75 mins: Coutinho had a clear sight of goal but deliberated after Messi’s pass. Gaya, excellent all night, makes a tackle he shouldn’t have been given chance to make. Again, Coutinho looks sluggish compared to Messi and Suarez.

73 mins: Messi is starting to step up things. One run takes him past four defenders, before his pass finds Suarez crowded out. Suarez tries to bludgeon his way through and use the shins of defenders. Instead, they clear the ball.

72 mins: It looks like Dembele is coming on for Barcelona. Coutinho would be favourite to vacate the scene.

71 mins: A free-kick chance for Messi, but the distance is too far even for him. He goes for power and the ball climbs all the way to its target and sails over the ball.

70 mins: Loose play from Valencia gives Messi a sniff but Suarez, the usual target for his passes, is hustled out of possession in the box. The same happens soon after once a couple of dips of the shoulder buy Messi some space, but Suarez is again blocked off. Rakitic is fouled.

68 mins: Valencia look the likelier here. Barcelona look tired and not a little listless. Four league games without a win may soon beckon.

66 mins: Off comes Gameiro and on comes Rodrigo, former Bolton legend. He learned at the feet of one of the greats at Bolton: Owen Coyle, no less.

64 mins: Vermaelen sends Alba down the flank but Valencia are able to clear. Gaya’s ball in is cleared by Vermaelen. Valencia are piling the pressure on a little here and seem to be at least level on possession with Barcelona.

62 mins: Both sides here have rather left the back doors open. Chances at both ends but neither forward line quite firing. Gameiro and Batshuayi don’t look much of a partnership while Messi and Suarez are both on the periphery. Coutinho is even more peripheral.

61 mins: There is the sound of woodwork being rattled but it is in fact the pole behind the goal when Gameiro tries an angled shot.

59 mins: Messi is found offside - is that something of a collector’s item? As it turns out, he wasn’t offside at all and it was a poor decision. The most gifted players are very rarely offside.

57 mins: Arthur, uncharacteristically, gives the ball away, and Gameiro has a chance to shoot. The shot is blocked. Some handbags in the middle: Parejo and Coutinho clash. Parejo is booked for pulling back the Brazilian. Coutinhi is booked for losing his temper and swinging in the vague direction of Parejo.

55 mins: Cheryshev is far quicker than Pique when the ball comes loose. He forces a corner. Parejo takes that, and once the ball comes back out, it is the Valencia captain who fires a long shot at goal. It was never on target.

54 mins: Messi springs into action. He weaves through, links with Alba, and his snap shot is saved down low by Neto.

53 mins: Barcelona trying to take the sting out of this; they are not at their best tonight and look a little leggy. The talk is of a World Cup hangover. Messi looks annoyed as his pass fails to find Rakitic but his team-mate did not read his thoughts.

51 mins: Cheryshev again is a weak link as he fails to find Gaya, speeding down the flank, when the full-back had bust a gut to get forward.

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50 mins: Coutinho, coming in from his left-wing isolation, smashes in a right-footed shot. He goes close, but not close enough.

49 mins: Lovely swinging ball from Pique out to the flank. Alba on the overlap and his cross is knocked behind. Barcelona don’t make much of the corner.

48 mins: Cheryshev has an attempt on goal after an error from Alba. The ball drops into the Russian’s path and he shoots on sight. Ter Stegen was scrabbling and will have been pleased to see it fly over.

47 mins: Valencia lost something of their thrust in the first half when Guedes went off. Cheryshev proved no sort of replacement when he came on.

46 mins: Lionel Messi’s beard is growing back, anyway. Barcelona get the game restarted from the kick-off.

The teams are coming back out of the tunnel and we are due to get back underway. Barcelona will try not to start as badly as they did the first half.

Charles tweets in: “Is it awful that I want anyone - anyone at all - to stop Real or Barca winning La Liga again this year? I suppose Atlético or Sevilla are the best bets, but I just can’t see them being consistent enough against the smaller teams to go the distance.”

Half-time: 1-1

Valencia’s early goal and a series of decent chances had Barcelona on the ropes but then came Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez’s link play for the equaliser, which was thumped home without prejudice. Barcelona not at their best, though. They are vulnerable at the back and Coutinho still looks a player without proper constituency.

45+2 mins: One last chance for Barça? No, Alba makes a mess of his attempt to get the ball in from the left flank.

45 mins: There are two minutes added on at the end of the first half. It peters out a little, with both teams having thrown plenty of effort in.

43 mins: Alba and Arthur link to try and set up Messi. The final ball is a bit overhit and Neto comes to clear up the danger. Messi appreciated the idea, though. Arthur seems to be a player of the type he enjoys playing with.

42 mins: There is a bit of needle being drawn in this game now. Vermaelen’s foul on Batshuayi is the latest infringement. Now there’s a yellow for Soler for a hack on Jordi Alba.

41 mins: Better from Valencia again. And Cheryshev as he buys a foul from Semedo, but the free-kick is taken short before Cheryshev goes back to normal when fouling Arthur. Meanwhile, Suarez has been booked for some dissent to the referee.

38 mins: Cheryshev finally gets involved in a positive fashion, setting up a chance for Gaya to surge on to. The shot Gaya hits has Ter Stegen flapping but Barcelona eventually get it clear.

37 mins: Suarez has been the main man for Barcelona tonight. He’s the player trying to make things happen. Messi is in absentia, but that’s his way these days.

36 mins: Barcelona lay heavy pressure on, but Valencia hold their shape. A couple of Suarez shimmies come to little.

34 mins: Since coming on, Cheryshev has given the ball away twice now and committed a silly foul. For some reason, he doesn’t look the player he was for Russia in the summer.

33 mins: A fresh air swing by Suarez after he and Arsenal legend Gabriel clash in the penalty area. No dive, and instead some embarrassment for the Uruguayan.

32 mins: Cheryshev, who has barely touched the ball since coming on, gives the ball away cheaply. Valencia are getting ragged.

30 mins: It has been a great opening half hour - certainly better than Liverpool v Manchester City was until Mahrez supplied his party piece. Barcelona games are better to watch when they are not as far ahead of their opposition as they used to be. The sterile domination era was fantastic but often short on excitement. Flawed Barça is very watchable Barça.

28 mins: Valencia are now sitting back deep. Their purpose of the early stages now a distant memory. Barcelona are not as fluid as in their Xavi/Iniesta era, but the danger still lurks.

27 mins: A closer look at the goal shows it was a crystal clear touch from Suarez that set up Messi. What a partnership they are.

25 mins: Kári Tulinius emails in: “In your preamble you forgot to mention that Sevilla are top of the league, thanks to their 2-1 victory over Celta Vigo. What a turn up for the books if at the end of this round, neither Real nor Barcelona are in the top two places. Mind you, no one in either Madrid or Seville is counting their eggs with well over an hour left to play of the match.”

24 mins: Did Suarez touch the ball there? Perhaps not, but his presence bought the space from which Messi drove the ball home. It’s often difficult to remember how hard he hits the ball.

Valencia 1-1 Barcelona (Messi, 23)

That link-up with Suarez does the job as the ball springs loose and Messi thrashes the ball home.

22 mins: Bit of VAR action as Suarez throws himself to the floor in the penalty area. The replay shows there was no case to answer.

20 mins: A mistake by Garay lets in Arthur and Coutinho, and the ball makes its way to Messi, who rips a shot loose but Neto makes the save, just as Netto supermarkets...no, I can’t go there.

19 mins: Barcelona again looking leggy in attack. Alba and Coutinho are not on the same wavelength and an attempt by them to link comes to nothing.

17 mins: Valencia look much the more dangerous but Suarez tries a long-range pot-shot after robbing the ball from Gabriel. It drifts over.

15 mins: Simon McMahon emails in: “Good evening ,John. A little bird once told me that Dundee United are the only team to have a 100% record against Barcelona. Played 4, won 4, I’m told. Can you confirm? Thanks.”

I think that’s right, Simon, but perhaps others can confirm.

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14 mins: Messi and Suarez attempt one of their linking sequences but Soler steps across to stop it and then Messi concedes a foul.

13 mins: Barcelona play some possession football. Their first objective is to take the sting from Valencia. Their second is to get Messi on the ball.

12 mins: A replay of the Valencia goal suggests Pique ducked under the ball, which was highly odd. Batshuayi, meanwhile, has yet another shot on goal.

11 mins: Guedes leaves the field and is replaced by Russian World Cup hero Denis Cheryshev.

10 mins: Messi has his first touch. It has been that long, and he can’t do much with the ball. Time for Coutinho to step up here? Guedes comes back on, but not for long. His knee took a nasty twist.

8 mins: Great noise from the home fans again. Gameiro’s shot gets the hackles raised with another shot. Barcelona rocking on their heels.

7 mins: Guedes, excellent in midweek against Manchester United, is down injured. he leaves the field having looked in some pain. He looks like he might come back on, though.

5 mins: Valencia go close again! Gaya storms down the left, Gameiro holds the ball up and Batshuayi shoots just wide. Ter Stegen was beaten...and they go close again Kondogbia fires in a long shot that again had Ter Stegen beaten.

4 mins: Ok, then, Lionel Messi, what have you got? Barcelona step into their passing rhythm as Valencia try to keep their defensive shape.

3 mins: Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde didn’t even get the chance to take his seast before that goal went in. The word is out: his team are not very good at defending.

2 mins: What a sorry mess that was for Barcelona. And what a noise greeted that goal.

Goal! Valencia 1-0 Barcelona (Garay, 2)

Valencia force an early corner. Parejo takes it. Kondogbia flicks on, Vermaelen misses it and Garay bundles home off Pique.

Away we go!

Valencia take the kick-off and we are underway at the Mestalla.

Two Valencia changes - Soler for Arsenal legend Francis Coquelin. And Kevin Gameiro comes in for Bolton legend Rodrigo.

Valencia are the lowest scorers in La Liga. They hung on grimly against José Mourinho’s entertainers on Tuesday, and more of the same must be expected here against Barça.

Mark Turner emails in: “King Arthur must be getting narked. Bench again. And he came from Bayern to sit there, too.”

Barcelona’s run of three Liga matches without a win is their longest winless stretch in two years. For a club in supposed decline, that’s not bad, is it?

Charles Antaki emails in: “Sometimes the easy and tempting answers might be right - Barcelona still haven’t adequately replaced Dani Alves nor Andres Iniesta; Semedo, the current incumbent, is inconsistent and prone to giving the ball away, while Coutinho, while a wonderfully skilful footballer, simply has too much to live up to. Or it might be the Catalan independence movement, or global warning.”

Richard TW Arthur emails in: “’Arsenal legends Francis Coquelin and Gabriel are having a tough time.’” Yeah, yet more snide remarks about anything connected with Arsenal from the Guardian. Get over it, the lot of you!”

Arsenal legend Francis Coquelin does not start this game.

A reminder that, for all their Wembley wizardry, Barça have not won their last three league games. The rot started with a 2-2 draw with Girona, then that 2-1 loss to Leganés and a 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao.

Here’s a nice preview from Harry Middleton of tonight’s ref. Thanks, Harry.

“After the goal missed in last season’s fixture, Carlos Velasco (Spanish refs chief) appointed experienced referee Jose González González for this match.A Primera División since 2009, González is a pretty solid referee. Incredibly, despite not being an international referee, he had the highest mark average in LaLiga 2014/15, which considering the algorithm is used to favour those ten FIFA referees is quite impressive. The 44-year-old is not the biggest match-manager, nor the referee most liked by the players, but generally is a ‘safe pair of hands’ for big(ish) matches. VAR is Jose Sanchez Martinez.”

Barcelona have made one change from midweek and that’s Vermaelen in for Lenglet. The Frenchman is still suspended for his VAR-snared forearm smash on a Girona player two weeks ago.

A reminder here of what happened to Real Madrid yesterday.

And some more Barney on the wonder of Luis Suárez.

Here’s a reminder of the way Messi was in midweek.

Let’s list those in a more analogue fashion.

Valencia: Neto, Gaya. Paulista, Garay, Piccini, Guedes, Kondogbia, Parejo, Soler, Gameiro, Batshuayi

Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Semedo, Pique, Alba, Vermaelen, Coutinho, Sergio, Rakitic, Arthur, Suarez, Messi

Here's those teams.

Preamble

It was nice of Lionel Messi to remind the English of just how he good he is. We had completely forgotten how good the best player in the world is until he put Tottenham to the sword at Wembley. Anyway, back to the day job for him, and the chance for Barcelona to climb to the top of La Liga. Alavés’ Saturday night defeat of crisis club Real Madrid has meant Atlético Madrid climbed to the top after beating Real Betis this afternoon. Valencia are 16th in the table, and really not having much fun this season, though did draw 0-0 with crisis club Manchester United on Tuesday. Already, their hopes of returning to the Champions League look in severe lumber. Arsenal legends Francis Coquelin and Gabriel are having a tough time.

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