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Gianni VerschuerenFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2017

Lionel Messi was once again the hero for Barcelona at Camp Nou on Sunday, scoring a brace in the 4-2 win over Valencia in La Liga.

Eliaquim Mangala gave the visitors a shock lead but was sent off on the verge of half-time, giving away a penalty in the process. Luis Suarez had tied things up by then, and Messi gave his team the lead from the spot.

Munir El Haddadi tied things up a minute later, but Messi struck again in the second half. Andre Gomes added an insurance goal late.

As shared by the club’s official Twitter account, there were no surprises in Barcelona’s starting XI, with Messi and Suarez both featuring:

From the first kick, Barcelona took control of the ball and surrounded Valencia’s goal. There was plenty of space on the counter, however, and Joao Cancelo sent an early warning sign to the Catalans, as he nearly beat Javier Mascherano to goal.

Suarez put Diego Alves into action for the first time, and Messi went very close to opening the score, as Jose Luis Gaya made a goal-line clearance. The Argentinian went on a surging run shortly after, but his curling shot missed the mark.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 19:  Neymar Santos Jr (R) of FC Barcelona competes for the ball with Joao Cancelo (L) of Valencia CF during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Valencia CF at Camp Nou stadium on March 19, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo

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Carlos Soler put Marc-Andre ter Stegen to work for the first time, and Neymar had appeals for a penalty waved down, with replays confirming the Brazilian greatly exaggerated the contact.

The opening goal came from an unlikely source, as Mangala powered home a great header after some sloppy set-piece defending. Per Bleacher Report UK’s Karl Matchett, it was a great finish:

Valencia couldn’t enjoy their lead for very long, however. Just a few minutes after Mangala’s goal, defensive partner Ezequiel Garay lost track of Suarez, who easily slotted the ball past Alves for the equaliser.

Mangala ran into his first booking with six minutes left in the half, and Messi fired the resulting free-kick over the bar. Fans started preparing for half-time, as the pace of the match dropped, but there was plenty of drama still to come.

First, Mangala dragged Suarez down in the box, giving up a silly penalty and receiving his marching orders in the process. Bleacher Report’s Matt Jones couldn’t help himself:

But the Catalans barely had time to celebrate their goal, as Gaya chased after a loose ball, made a superb effort to win yards and played in Munir―on loan from Barcelona―who finished and refused to celebrate.

Bleacher Report UK weighed in on the spectacle:

Aymen Abdennour started the second half for Valencia in place of Fabian Orellana, meaning the visitors had little attacking threat left.

Neymar perhaps should have given the Blaugrana the lead after Messi played him in with a stunning pass, but his miss hardly mattered, as his team-mate scored his second goal moments later.

As shared by, Messi’s scoring record is absurdly high:

The Catalans’ defensive issues persisted, however. Another quick counter saw Soler reach Munir, who tried to put Gerard Pique on skates and lost his composure.

Barcelona prioritised possession in an attempt to take the tempo out of the match, and it worked to perfection. Rafinha missed a great chance to add to the lead, but more importantly, Valencia barely mustered any chances.

Valencia gambled by bringing on Simone Zaza but the best chances fell on the other side of the pitch, with Neymar nailing the woodwork with a free-kick.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 19:  Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona falls after being fouled by Eliaquim Mangala (L) of Valencia CF during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Valencia CF at Camp Nou stadium on March 19, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by A

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Suarez fired a free-kick into the wall, but it was Gomes who finished the match as a contest shortly before the final whistle, finishing an easy chance after Neymar did the hard work.

Per the club’s official Twitter account, star midfielder Andres Iniesta kept his eyes on the prize after the match:

Barcelona will return to action after the international break, as they take on Granada. Valencia play Deportivo La Coruna.

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