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Following two successive draws in La Liga Bar?a got back to winning ways thanks to a hard fought 1-0 victory over a durable Valladolid side led by an inspired Jordi Masip in goal at Camp Nou. ?Leo Messi’s 43rd minute penalty was enough to give the blaugranes all three points and they retain their healthy advantage at the top of the table with the return of the Champions League on Tuesday to come against Lyon away from home in the last 16 first leg.
Ernesto Valverde decided to leave Luis Suárez on the bench and give a Camp Nou debut as a Bar?a player to Kevin-Prince Boateng as well giving starts to Carles Ale?á and Thomas Vermaelen. Visitors’ Valladolid showed that they were not going to make life easy for the blaugranes in the opening minutes as they forced the first corner of the game with barely two minutes on the clock.
The blaugranes weathered the early pressure from Sergio González’s team and the first real chance of the evening fell to debutante Boateng. After nine minutes he striker was fed by Leo Messi inside the box but could only hit his shot straight at former blaugrana Jordi Masip in goal for Valladolid.
End to end
Amidst moments of uncharacteristically imprecise passing from Valverde’s team and moments of danger from Valladolid on the counter, opportunities finally arrived. A run from Messi ended with Dembélé delaying his effort a shade too long and an outstretched leg blocked his goal bound shot. Messi then went close with a deflected effort before Bar?a finally took the lead just two minutes before the break.
Valladolid broke dangerously again only to waste the opportunity and were caught by a swift counter from the home side. Piqué, in his 300th league game as a blaugrana, found himself just inside the box and was dragged down from behind by Míchel. Referee Martínez Munuera pointed to the spot and Leo Messi did the rest to put Bar?a ahead at the break.
Masip denies Bar?a
Chances flowed early on in the second half: Valladolid striker Sergi Guardiola, no relation to Pep, dragged an effort just wide and then Masip pulled off a wonderful save to tip away Messi’s volley.
The entrance of Luis Suárez after the hour mark saw opportunities to extend the lead for the home side. After 65 minutes a gift from the Valladolid defence presented the Uruguayan the moment to open his account against ‘los pucelanos’ but once again Masip was up to the challenge.
The former Bar?a man’s ability to frustrate his former team mates was not over. With less than 10 minutes to go a smart one two between Suárez and Coutinho ended with the Brazilian upended in the box. Messi stepped up once again but Masip got down low to his left to beat away the penalty. Bar?a’s propensity to fluff their chances led to a nervy final few minutes but in the end Messi’s penalty was enough to guarantee at least a six point lead in La Liga for another week.
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