Barcelona’s decision not to sign a defender during the January transfer window may have backfired after Valencia took advantage of a lethargic, uninspired effort by the hosts at Camp Nou, where former Spain coach Luis Aragones was honoured after his death yesterday.
Barcelona led through Alexis Sanchez’s eighth-minute goal, set up by Lionel Messi slashing a pass across the box.
But Valencia took control from the 44th minute when Dani Parejo won possession inside the Barcelona half to lead a break with Sofiane Feghouli, who returned the ball to Parejo to score with ease.
Pablo Piatti – who is 5ft 4ins tall – headed Valencia ahead after the restart before Messi’s penalty – and first league goal since September – levelled the game again.
But Barca’s defence let Feghouli burst into the area to set up Paco Alcacer’s 59th-minute winner.
Valencia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi hailed his side’s reaction after the break. “In the second half we dominated the game,” he said “ ... every counter-attack we had looked dangerous.”
Barcelona played with 10 men from the 78th minute after Jodi Alba was shown a second yellow card.
The defeat means Atletico can go first outright for the first time this season – and end Barca's record run of 59 games at the top – if they do not lose at home to Real Sociedad on Sunday. Real Madrid can also overtake their rivals with a victory at fourth-place Athletic Bilbao. Atletico and Barcelona share 54 points. Madrid sit at 53.
Barca manager Gerardo Martino said his side had paid for not killing off their opponents in that opening spell.
“This week I said that at this stage of the season you pay a heavy price for any errors and today we committed a lot of errors,” he said.
Before kick off there was a minute’s silence for Aragones, who died earlier in the day. Aragones coached Barcelona during the 1987/88 season and led them to victory in the Copa del Rey.
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