BARCELONA: Lionel Messi scored twice as La Liga champions Barcelona saw off a persistent Valencia side, who had Eliaquim Mangala sent off in the first half, to win 4-2 early this morning and stay on the heels of leaders Real Madrid.
Manchester City loanee Mangala stunned the Nou Camp by heading Valencia in front in the 29th minute but Luis Suarez soon cancelled out the opener following a quick throw-in by Neymar and the Uruguayan then won a penalty as he was hauled down by Mangala, who was sent off for a second booking.
Messi beat penalty-saving expert Diego Alves from the spot for the second time this season to pull Barca level in the 45th minute but Munir El Haddadi, who is on loan from the Catalans, equalised immediately in injury time of the first half.
Barca dominated the second half and took the lead for the second time when Messi smashed the ball past Alves’s near post but the visiting side created one chance to level again which Munir squandered.
Former Valencia midfielder Andre Gomes then scored his first goal for Barcelona to make sure of the points.
Barca are second in the standings on 63 points, two behind Real who have a game in hand.
Earlier, Antoine Griezmann scored for the fifth time in four league games and provided an assist as Atletico Madrid beat Sevilla 3-1 to move to within two points of Jorge Sampaoli’s third-placed side in the standings.
The France international delivered a cross from a free kick for Diego Godin to head in the opener in the 37th minute then sent the ball fizzing in off the bar from a set-piece in the 61st while Koke tapped in the third in the 77th to seal a third straight league win for Atletico.
Joaquin Correa scored a consolation goal for Sevilla in the 85th.
While Atletico are in the midst of a good run of results Sevilla are in freefall. They have failed to win any of their last four games in all competitions and lost their last two, and they went out of the Champions League following a 2-0 defeat at Leicester City on Tuesday.
Sevilla have 57 points while Atletico are in fourth place on 55. Leaders Real Madrid have 65 points after beating Athletic Bilbao 2-1 on Saturday.
Iago Aspas scored in the 74th as Celta Vigo won a regional derby at Deportivo 1-0.
Malaga’s 0-0 draw at Leganes left both sides on the brink of the relegation zone. Sporting Gijon scored three goals in an eight-minute span to beat Granada 3-1 and climb to within five points of Leganes. Granada remained in second-to-last place ahead of Osasuna.