Lionel Messi missed a penalty but still scored twice, including a delightful free-kick, as Barcelona edged a five-goal thriller with Valencia on Sunday to maintain their title charge.
After Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid both won on Saturday, there was no margin for error at Mestalla, where Barca’s 3-2 win reduced the gap behind Atletico back to two points, now with four games left to play.
After a goalless opening 45 minutes, former Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista headed Valencia in front early in the second half against the run of play.
Barca claimed a foul on Ter Stegen as Thierry Correia had stepped across the goalkeeper but it was not enough for a free-kick.
Correia could have made it two shortly after but missed the target and instead, Barcelona scored three times in a 12-minute blitz.
First, Valencia’s Toni Lato was guilty of a clear handball to prevent Frenkie de Jong tapping in and while Messi missed the penalty, a tame attempt pushed away by Jasper Cillessen, Sergio Busquets did brilliantly to keep the ball alive.
Gabriel blocked Pedri’s volley on the line and in the mayhem, Messi reacted fastest to smash in the rebound.
Six minutes later, Barca were in front, Griezmann finishing after De Jong timed his run perfectly to meet Alba’s floated cross, only for his header to be palmed by Cillessen into Griezmann’s path.
And then Messi scored the best of the lot, winning a free-kick with an excellent touch away from his marker centrally, on the edge of the box, before curling a delightful shot away from Cillessen’s left hand and in off the post. It was his 28th goal of the campaign, seven ahead of Karim Benzema in the race for top scorer.
Barcelona looked secure until Soler set up a dramatic finish by thundering in a shot from 30 yards with seven minutes left to play.
Valencia pushed for the leveler , flooding the box and chipping balls forward but Barca expertly held on for the priceless three points.