Madrid, Mar 20 (AFP) Lionel Messi scored twice as La Liga champions FC Barcelona saw off a persistent Valencia CF side, who had Eliaquim Mangala sent off in the first half, to win 4-2 on Sunday and stay on the heels of leaders Real Madrid.
Manchester City loanee Mangala stunned the Nou Camp by heading Valencia CF 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 an opening to level again but Munir squandered the chance.
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.
“We controlled the game but they made the most of a set piece and a counter attack. Overall we played well, we played at a high tempo and in general we can be happy with the game,” Barca captain Andres Iniesta told reporters.
“The title race is still alive and we’re obliged to stay up there and take advantage of any opportunity we get if Real Madrid slip up.”