An Argentine tops our player ratings after getting on the scoresheet as Valencia and Barcelona shared the spoils at Mestalla…but it’s not the man you might expect.
Rather than Lionel Messi (who admittedly did rescue a point with a brilliant equaliser), home team defender Ezequiel Garay was the pick of the bunch, netting the opening goal and defending excellently.
Here’s the full rundown of all 27 players.
Neto 6. Little to do other than retrieve Messi’s goal from his net, when he had no chance. Made a solid second half stop from the Argentine.
Piccini 6. Hard to recall if he ever crossed the halfway line as he was forced deep to defend against Alba and Coutinho, but did that well.
Gabriel 7. Steady and sensible in the centre of defence, holding his position well.
Garay 8. Netted the opener from close range, and did very well at the back with some strong interventions, including a key late tackle on Messi.
Gaya 6. Could have conceded a penalty with a silly challenge on Suarez. Flashed a drive just wide but generally forced to play more defensively than usual.
Soler 6. Booked for fouling Alba and his main task for the night was staying in place to cut out the opposition left-back’s low crosses.
Kondogbia 7. Fizzed an early shot inches wide and made a few dynamic bursts as well as doing a good job protecting his back four.
Parejo 6. Unable to assert himself against Arthur and Busquets but didn’t become frustrated, sticking to his defensive task with discipline.
Guedes 7. A major early threat, winning the corner for the opener, but was then forced off with an injury after a challenge from Coutinho.
Batshuayi 7. Twice came close early on during a powerful start, and he worked hard throughout, dropping deep to pressure the visiting midfielders.
Gameiro 5. Made one good run down the right to set up a chance for Cheryshev but had little further impact and was replaced by Rodrigo.
Cheryshev 6. Early entrant down the left wing and initially struggled, but improved to have a goalbound shot blocked and curled another just over.
Rodrigo 6. Came on for the last 25 minutes, replacing Gameiro, but was left chasing the ball as Valencia dropped deep to defend.
Coquelin 6. Replaced the tiring Kondogbia for the final stages as Valencia held on for a point, and fulfilled his task competently.
Ter Stegen 7. Made a couple of good early saves to prevent Valencia going two-up, and was reduced to the role of a spectator after that.
Semedo 6. Vulnerable defensively, especially against Guedes, but a bright spark coming forward without managing to penetrate the penalty box.
Pique 6. Inadvertently assisted the opener and desperately struggled early on. Improved significantly from his dodgy start but still looked unconvincing.
Vermaelen 6. Failed to cut out corner for the opener and sometimes struggled against the strength of Batshuayi, but kept his concentration.
Alba 7. Endlessly available down the left flank, playing more like a winger than a full-back, but couldn’t quite find the killer pass for Messi.
Rakitic 6. Did a steady but unspectacular job on the right of midfield, maintaining his team’s shape and giving defensive support to Semedo.
Busquets 7. Led his team’s pressing to rapidly recover possession quickly, and used the ball as sensibly as always with subtle probing.
Arthur 7. Gradually imposed order after Barca’s wretched start, helping turn the game around with his safe passing. Perhaps sometimes too conservative.
Messi 7. Rifled home a brilliant equaliser and was always the biggest threat, forcing a save with a narrow-angled shot and hitting the side-netting.
Suarez 5. Haphazard with plenty of loose touches but found a neat layoff for Messi’s leveller. Booked for dissent and walked a tightrope after that.
Coutinho 6. Busy and bright in the inside left position, forever looking to cut inside and shoot – probably too much so because he became predictable and was replaced.
Dembele 6. Given the final ten minutes in place of Coutinho, and tried to get into advanced positions down the left without much joy.
Rafinha 6. Replaced Arthur with two minutes of normal time remaining, but had little opportunity to make an impact.
Barcelona lost top spot in La Liga with a 1-1 draw with Valencia on Sunday night, dropping points for the fourth consecutive league game after Lionel Messi earned a share of the spoils with a brilliant equaliser following Ezequiel Garay’s opener.
The visiting team recovered from a terrible start, which could easily have seen Valencia double their lead, to dominate the final 75 minutes, and by the end there was only one possible winner as the hosts were continually pegged back deep inside their own half.
As we head into the international break, we look at three key stories to emerge from an enthralling contest.
A new Barca is born?
In time, this first week of October 2018 could be remembered as the birth of a new Barcelona. And the man at the centre – both literally and figuratively – of that transformation is Arthur Melo, the summer signing from Gremio who looks like rapidly becoming a fundamental part of his team’s future.
Labelling Arthur ‘the new Xavi’ is both easy and lazy due to their similar physical stature and shuffling running style, but the Brazilian’s remarkably composed and precise passing in the last couple of games has started to make the resemblance a lot more real.
Until this week, Arthur was very much a peripheral presence at his new club, only given occasional run-outs. But after seizing a starting chance with an excellent display in the midweek Champions League win at Tottenham he repeated the feat on Sunday night in Valencia, doing more than any other player to restore order to his team’s performance following a horrid start and ending up with a remarkable total of 135 completed passes – the highest total by any player in La Liga so far this season.
In the space of just two games it’s now difficult to consider how manager Ernesto Valverde can consider leaving Arthur out of his team, and the 22 year-old will surely feature heavily when Barca return from the international break for a thrilling week with games against league leaders Sevilla, Inter Milan in the Champions League and old rivals Real Madrid for the season’s first Clasico.
Pique continues to struggle
A notable feature of the season so far continued on Sunday night with another shaky performance from veteran Barca defender Gérard Pique. The long-serving centre back has been directly responsible for several opposition goals in recent weeks and failed to cover himself in glory again at Mestalla with an unconvincing display.
Firstly Pique could have done more to keep out the early corner which gave Valencia the lead, but that was a relatively forgivable lapse compared to some of his later contributions, with the hosts frequently troubling him during their fast start – one example coming when he was unable to cut out a cross from Kevin Gameiro, forcing Nelson Semedo to make a good block from Denis Cheryshev before Jose Gaya thrashed the rebound just wide.
Pique now has two full weeks to rest and recuperate following his international retirement in the wake of the World Cup, and he needs to put that time to good use to kill off the growing suggestion that he is jeopardising his position as an automatic starter for Barca. If he doesn’t improve and Samuel Umtiti makes a swift return to fitness, the question will become a serious one.
Valencia the draw specialists
Draw, draw, draw, win, draw, draw: a familiar pattern has been established in Valencia’s recent games, with Marcelino’s teams doing enough to avoid defeat but not quite enough to win.
That was certainly a fair description of their efforts against Barcelona on Sunday night, with the early hope provided by Ezequiel Garay’s second minute opener soon fading into a rearguard action as Barca fought back and took full control, forcing Valencia to spend almost the entirety of the second half camped deep inside their own half, desperately defending the edge of their penalty area.
Los Che have now drawn seven of their ten games so far this season, and that just about sums up where they are as a team. Not bad, but not particularly good either. The defensive discipline instilled by Marcelino – which restricted Barca to just a handful of half-chances despite their overwhelming dominance of possession – should serve as a solid platform, but when the action resumes after the international break they need to find a lot more going forward, because at the moment it just isn’t happening.
Lionel Messi’s first-half leveller rescued a point as Barca were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw at Valencia on Sunday.
Ezequiel Garay opened the scoring after just 79 seconds while the defender then marshalled Valencia’s defence superbly.
Barca are second, a point behind new leaders Sevilla, but are winless in their last four league games.
The only win in the last five outings came in Wednesday’s 4-2 Champions League victory against Tottenham at Wembley but midfielder Rakitic is not looking for excuses.
He told Eleven Sports: “I don’t want to use it as an excuse but obviously we have been playing lots of games and long journeys but that’s football at this level. We are really motivated and really looking forward to the next game.
“I thought we played very well and deserved more. It’s very difficult, you’ve got get back into a game when that happens (conceding a goal early) but we showed great spirit. We’ll take the positives and look forward to the next game.
“It’s a shame for all the work the team is putting in we’re giving our rivals this advantage.
“The league looks really good. It’s nice to see we’re all there at the top, it shows you have to work really hard every match.
“I was really impressed with the way we played. We’re happy we didn’t lose but a little bit disappointed with a draw.”
Barca battled back from conceding a sloppy opener in the second minute when Garay bundled in at the far post after Thomas Vermaelen failed to deal with a corner.
Messi grabbed his 11th goal of the season when he fired in from 20 yards after swapping passes with Luis Suarez.