Football: Barca keep heat on Madrid with 4-2 win over Valencia

By Richard Martin

Lionel Messi scored once in each half to help take the game away from Valencia.  Photo / AP
Lionel Messi scored once in each half to help take the game away from Valencia. Photo / AP

Lionel Messi scored twice as La Liga champions Barcelona saw off a persistent Valencia side, who had Eliaquim Mangala sent off in the first half, to win 4-2 yesterday and stay on the heels of leaders Real Madrid.

Manchester City loanee Mangala stunned the Nou Camp by heading Valencia in front in the 29th minute but Luis Suarez soon cancelled out the opener following a quick throw-in by Neymar and the Uruguayan then won a penalty as he was hauled down by Mangala, who was sent off for a second booking.

Messi beat penalty-saving expert Diego Alves from the spot for the second time this season to pull Barca level in the 45th minute but Munir El Haddadi, who is on loan from the Catalans, equalised immediately in injury time of the first half.

Barca dominated the second half and took the lead for the second time when Messi smashed the ball past Alves's near post but the visiting side created one chance to level again which Munir squandered.

Former Valencia midfielder Andre Gomes then scored his first goal for Barcelona to make sure of the points.

Barca are second in the standings on 63 points, two behind Real who have a game in hand.

Earlier Antoine Griezmann netted one and provided an assist as Atletico Madrid beat Sevilla 3-1 to move to within two points of Jorge Sampaoli's third-placed side.

The France international delivered a cross from a free-kick for Diego Godin to head in the opener in the 37th minute then sent the ball fizzing in off the bar from a set-piece in the 61st, while Koke tapped in the third in the 77th to seal a third straight league win for Atletico.

While Atletico are in the midst of a good run of results Sevilla are in free fall. They have failed to win any of their last four games in all competitions.

"Sevilla have had a magnificent season ... and so this makes our performance even more laudable," Atletico coach Diego Simeone told reporters.

Sevilla have 57 points while Atletico are in fourth place on 55. Leaders Real Madrid are on 65 points after beating Athletic Bilbao 2-1 on Saturday.

In other matches, Leganes and Malaga played out a scoreless draw while Celta Vigo won 1-0 at Deportivo La Coruna and Sporting Gijon triumphed 3-1 over Granada.

- AAP

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