Messi penalty snatches thrilling Barca win
MADRID: Lionel Messi shrugged off his recent woes from the penalty spot with a decisive 94th-minute spot-kick to move Barcelona top of La Liga with a pulsating 3-2 win at Valencia on Saturday.
However, the dramatic victory came at a cost for Barca as a tearful Andres Iniesta suffered ligament damage in his right knee that could keep him out for several months.
Messi netted twice and his opener midway through the first half was allowed to stand despite Luis Suarez straying into an offside position.
Valencia hit back with two goals in six second-half minutes through on-loan Barca winger Munir El Haddadi and Rodrigo.
However, Suarez levelled and was then upended inside the area by Aymen Abdennour to allow Messi to hold his nerve and slot past penalty-stopping specialist Diego Alves for all three points.
Victory moves the champions a point clear of Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, who face Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao respectively on Sunday.
He may be one of the finest footballers ever but Messi has struggled from the spot in recent seasons, most notably blazing over as Argentina lost the Copa America final to Chile in June.
“Our best penalty-taker is Leo Messi without any doubt,” Barca boss Luis Enrique said. Valencia stopper Alves had saved three penalties this season and from Messi in the past, but was beaten low to his right.
“Messi took responsibility in the best moment and it is a glorious feeling for us,” added Enrique. A bad-tempered encounter spilled over after Messi´s strike, though, as Suarez and Neymar were hit by a plastic bottle thrown by the Valencia fans as Barca celebrated.
“We celebrated as it is normal to celebrate a last-minute winner,” said Enrique.