Lionel Messi brace helps Barcelona defeat 10-man Valencia
Barcelona 4 - 2 Valencia

Lionel Messi brace helps Barcelona defeat 10-man Valencia

Lionel Messi scored twice to help Barcelona keep pace in La Liga's title race with a 4-2 defeat of 10-man Valencia at the Camp Nou on Sunday night.

Barcelona controlled the game even before Eliaquim Mangala was sent off for pulling down Luis Suarez in the box before half-time, but some lapses at the back led to a scoreline that made the game seem closer than it truly was.

The hosts nearly had the lead after a quarter-hour when Suarez fed Messi, who couldn't make clear contact with the pass and Fabian Orellana was able to clear the attempt off the line.

Messi showed his intent a minute later, skipping past a host of defenders before curling a shot over the bar.

Valencia then tested Marc-Andre ter Stegen in a rare moment of possession, Carlos Soler slamming a volley at the Barcelona goalkeeper after Gerard Pique deflected a cross into his path.

Barcelona had a penalty shout on 26 minutes when Joao Cancelo made contact with Neymar, though nothing was given.

And two minutes later, Valencia had a lead against the run of play after Munir El Haddadi chased a long ball that went out for a corner. Mangala headed home Dani Parejo's cross into the box to put the visitors ahead.

But the lead would only last six minutes, as Suarez ran onto a quick throw-in from Neymar and scored with a sliding first touch.

Valencia's hopes seemed to be extinguished in the 44th minute, when Messi played through Suarez, who had his shirt grabbed by Mangala. It was a clear red card -- even if the Uruguayan went down rather easily -- and Messi put his penalty down the middle to put Barcelona ahead.

However, there was more drama in an eventful first half as the 10 men caught Barcelona sleeping before the break. Soler passed ahead to Jose Gaya, who fed across for Munir to tap in, though the player declined to celebrate his equaliser against his parent club.

The goal was the last true attack from Valencia, who were under pressure from the start of the second half.

On 52 minutes, Diego Alves made a fine save to deny Neymar, who had been played in by Messi. And less than a minute later the Argentina superstar received an Iniesta pass and found space at the near post to beat the Valencia goalkeeper and restore Barcelona's lead.

Barcelona had more opportunities to add to their advantage, and Neymar came close to marking his 500th senior match in football with his 100th goal for the club from a free kick that hit the post.

The hosts were rewarded for their efforts two minutes from time when Neymar crossed for substitute Andre Gomes to tap in.

The win sees Luis Enrique's men tighten their grip on second place in La Liga, where they are two points behind leaders Real Madrid, who still have a game in hand.

However, Messi received a yellow card with four minutes to play, which will rule him out of Barcelona's next game at Granada on April 2 following the international break.

Betting on LA LIGA? Bet365 are offering a 100% deposit bonus, up to £200 - find out more

Related news

Lionel Messi officially agrees new Barcelona contract until 2021

Lionel Messi officially agrees new Barcelona contract until 2021

Barcelona have announced that Lionel Messi has agreed a three-year contract extension, committing his future to the club until 2021.

Real Madrid sign Theo Hernandez from Atletico Madrid on six-year deal

Real Madrid sign Theo Hernandez from Atletico Madrid on six-year deal

Real Madrid have confirmed the signing of Theo Hernandez from rivals Atletico Madrid, with the defender signing a six-year deal with the European champions.

Ernesto Valverde is new Barcelona coach as Luis Enrique departs

Ernesto Valverde is new Barcelona coach as Luis Enrique departs

Barcelona have confirmed the appointment of Ernesto Valverde as their new coach.

Barcelona salvage season with Copa del Rey win against Alaves

Barcelona salvage season with Copa del Rey win against Alaves

Lionel Messi produced yet another master class as Barcelona marked the end of Luis Enrique's Nou Camp reign by lifting the Copa del Rey.

Real Madrid secure La Liga title with victory over Malaga

Real Madrid secure La Liga title with victory over Malaga

Goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema swept Real Madrid to their first La Liga title in five years as they cruised to a 2-0 win at Malaga on Sunday night.

Barcelona fightback against Eibar not enough to deliver La Liga title

Barcelona fightback against Eibar not enough to deliver La Liga title

Barcelona came from behind to beat Eibar 4-2 at the Nou Camp, but it was not enough to deliver the La Liga title in Luis Enrique's final home match.

Sevilla thrash Osasuna in likely Sampaoli finale

Sevilla thrash Osasuna in likely Sampaoli finale

Jorge Sampaoli led Sevilla to a 5-0 thrashing of already-relegated Osasuna in what could be his final game at the helm.

Ronaldo makes history as Real Madrid inch closer to La Liga title

Ronaldo makes history as Real Madrid inch closer to La Liga title

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice at Celta Vigo to ensure Real Madrid need just a point from their weekend game at Malaga to win the La Liga title for the first time in five years.

Neymar treble keeps Barcelona top with win at Las Palmas

Neymar treble keeps Barcelona top with win at Las Palmas

Neymar struck a hat trick as Barcelona stayed top of La Liga with a 4-1 victory away to Las Palmas.

RELATED NEWS

Lionel Messi officially agrees new Barcelona contract until 2021
Barcelona news

Lionel Messi officially agrees new Barcelona contract until 2021

Barcelona have announced that Lionel Messi has agreed a three-year contract extension, committing his future to the club until 2021.

Real Madrid sign Theo Hernandez from Atletico Madrid on six-year deal
Real Madrid news

Real Madrid sign Theo Hernandez from Atletico Madrid on six-year deal

Real Madrid have confirmed the signing of Theo Hernandez from rivals Atletico Madrid, with the defender signing a six-year deal with the European champions.

Ernesto Valverde is new Barcelona coach as Luis Enrique departs
Barcelona news

Ernesto Valverde is new Barcelona coach as Luis Enrique departs

Barcelona have confirmed the appointment of Ernesto Valverde as their new coach.

Barcelona salvage season with Copa del Rey win against Alaves
Barcelona 3 - 1 Alaves

Barcelona salvage season with Copa del Rey win against Alaves

Lionel Messi produced yet another master class as Barcelona marked the end of Luis Enrique's Nou Camp reign by lifting the Copa del Rey.

Real Madrid secure La Liga title with victory over Malaga
Malaga 0 - 2 Real Madrid

Real Madrid secure La Liga title with victory over Malaga

Goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema swept Real Madrid to their first La Liga title in five years as they cruised to a 2-0 win at Malaga on Sunday night.

Barcelona fightback against Eibar not enough to deliver La Liga title
Barcelona 4 - 2 Eibar

Barcelona fightback against Eibar not enough to deliver La Liga title

Barcelona came from behind to beat Eibar 4-2 at the Nou Camp, but it was not enough to deliver the La Liga title in Luis Enrique's final home match.

Sevilla thrash Osasuna in likely Sampaoli finale
Sevilla 5 - 0 Osasuna

Sevilla thrash Osasuna in likely Sampaoli finale

Jorge Sampaoli led Sevilla to a 5-0 thrashing of already-relegated Osasuna in what could be his final game at the helm.

Ronaldo makes history as Real Madrid inch closer to La Liga title
Celta Vigo 1 - 4 Real Madrid

Ronaldo makes history as Real Madrid inch closer to La Liga title

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice at Celta Vigo to ensure Real Madrid need just a point from their weekend game at Malaga to win the La Liga title for the first time in five years.

Neymar treble keeps Barcelona top with win at Las Palmas
Las Palmas 1 - 4 Barcelona

Neymar treble keeps Barcelona top with win at Las Palmas

Neymar struck a hat trick as Barcelona stayed top of La Liga with a 4-1 victory away to Las Palmas.