Barcelona dropped points for the seventh time this season as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Valencia at Camp Nou on Saturday.
Mouctar Diakhaby headed Valencia into a first-half lead but goals either side of the break helped Barca turn the game around.
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Lionel Messi headed home from close range after missing a penalty to draw level with Pele’s record for most goals scored at a single club, before Ronald Araujo’s acrobatic effort edged the home side ahead.
But Maxi Gomez’s 69th-minute goal earned Valencia a point and further increased the pressure on Barca coach Ronald Koeman.
Barca may be struggling this season but they will hope it serves as an important part of the development for some of their young players. Despite disappointing team performances, 18-year-old midfielder Pedri remains a bright light and young defenders Araujo and Oscar Mingueza are both gaining valuable experience in the top flight.
Messi’s goal against Valencia took him to 643 for Barca, meaning his next strike will move him past Santos legend Pele as the player to have scored the most goals for a single club ever.
It’s one step forward and two steps back for Barca this season. After back-to-back wins against Levante and Real Sociedad, a third home win in a week would have taken them, temporarily at least, into the top four. Instead, they were held to their third draw of the season, in addition to four defeats, and with this sort of consistency it’s hard to see how they can challenge for the title.
There are weaknesses everywhere. They’re conceding too many goals from corners, making too many individual mistakes, leaving big spaces in midfield and there’s a spark missing in attack. With so many problems, the buck ultimately stops with the coach, who’s not getting the best out of his players.
Manager rating out of 10
4 — Koeman picked a side with no balance in midfield and his substitutes and system tweaks didn’t have the desired effect after Valencia’s equaliser.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 6 — Made a good save from Carlos Soler, although Valencia scored from the subsequent corner, and another from Gomez. Could do little about the goals.
DF Sergino Dest, 5 — Left big spaces behind him in defence, with Valencia’s second goal born down his flank.
DF Ronald Araujo, 7 — Made a few errors early on but got better as the game aged. Strong, quick and took his goal, his first for Barca, really well.
DF Oscar Mingueza, 5 — Let Gomez get ahead of him for Valencia’s leveller. Good on the ball and contributed in attack, too, but that lapse of concentration cost the team.
DF Jordi Alba, 6 — One of Barca’s better players in the first half but his final ball in the attacking third let him down. That said, his deflected cross led to Messi’s goal.
MF Sergio Busquets, 6 — Taken off at half-time but hadn’t done too much wrong. His mistakes were magnified by the lack of support around him in midfield.
MF Pedri, 6 — Pressed intensely and used the ball well when he had it, although did give it away cheaply a couple of times.
MF Philippe Coutinho, 6 — An improvement on recent performances but still not at his best. Woke up after Valencia made it 2-2, with one shot saved by Jaume Domenech and another fizzing just wide.
FW Antoine Griezmann, 5 — Lost Diakhaby for the opening goal and missed chances once again. Did win the penalty which eventually led to Messi’s goal but another performance to forget from the Frenchman.
FW Lionel Messi, 6 — Missed the penalty but scored in the play which followed. Not his best game of the season but still the player Barca looked to win them the game in the final 10 minutes.
FW Martin Braithwaite, 6 — Worked hard but didn’t feel like a major goal threat. His best chance, a header from a Messi cross, was saved by Jaume on the line.
MF Frenkie de Jong, 6 — Didn’t start because he had a niggle but came on to offer dynamism in midfield.
FW Francisco Trincao, 5 — Comes on in every game but is yet to really offer anything exceptional.
DF Clement Lenglet, NR — Koeman brought him on as he shifted to a back three late on.
MF Miralem Pjanic, NR — Came on for the final five minutes.