Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Barcelona deserved to beat Valencia, says Luis Enrique

Barcelona coach refutes suggestions Primera Liga leaders were lucky to win game 2-0. Andy Mitten reports from Camp Nou.

Lionel Messi scored his 400th goal for Barcelona against Valencia at Camp Nou on Saturday. Lluis Gene / AFP
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BARCELONA // Valencia manager Nuno Espirito Santo shook his head when asked if he felt proud, or if his side had achieved a moral victory following a superb first-half performance at Camp Nou on Saturday.

Valencia had been defeated 2-0 by Barcelona after goals in the first and last minutes of a gripping encounter, but they had created nine chances to Barca's three in the first period.

No team had rattled Barca like Valencia this season: they had a penalty, they hit the post, but the 2-0 scoreline is what people will see, and that upset the man Spain calls Nuno.

“We were really good first half with so many chances,” he said, but added that he was leaving Camp Nou “sad, injured and angry, as we deserved more. We feel screwed by this. We are not really thinking about being proud of performance at Camp Nou. We are mad. What matters is to win.”


Strong words from a strong character who has been a vital feature in Valencia getting back on track this season after an eighth-place finish last term.

They are well placed for the top four with six games to play, but they beat Barca at Camp Nou last season and Nuno felt he had the players to do the same this term.

Though otherwise complimentary, his counterpart Luis Enrique disagreed with the notion that Valencia had been unlucky.

“An unjust result? Never,” he said. “Victories are decided by what you do over 90 minutes, and effectiveness is very important in football.”

Lionel Messi had set up Luis Suarez to put Barcelona ahead after 56 seconds, but the Catalans did well to survive a first-half blitz.

Valencia captain Dani Parejo rolled a weak eighth-minute penalty into the hands of Claudio Bravo after Gerard Pique fouled Rodrigo Moreno.

Profligate in possession, Barca only reasserted control after half time thanks to substitute Ivan Rakitic, on for the booked Adriano. Messi was hoping for his 400th Barcelona goal and it came after 92 minutes.

Put clear through by Neymar with only the goalkeeper Diego Alves to beat, his attempted chip did not clear the goalkeeper who, along with Bravo, is a contender for the Zamora award for conceding the fewest goals this season.

Alves blocked the chip, but the ball fell again to the Argentine and he placed it into an open goal. His 400 goals have come from 407 starts in 471 games for his club and Messi hits new goalscoring landmarks or breaks a record by the month.

It was more important, though, that Barca returned to winning ways following last week’s draw at Sevilla, especially as Real Madrid were only two points behind with a superior head-to-head record. Barca remain in the driving seat for the title.

Valencia face a battle with Sevilla and Atletico Madrid for a coveted top-four place.

They are much changed from last season and put their success down to new owner Peter Lim, his friend and uber agent Jorge Mendes, their new Portuguese coach and his Scottish assistant Ian Cathro, 29.

Their players, including several represented by Mendes, had lost just four of their 31 league games before Saturday’s encounter. Only Barca had conceded fewer than their 23 goals, but that became 24 after Suarez’s opener and would become 25 after Barca began to control the game in the second period.

“Barca started to pack players into the middle,” Nuno said. “Messi, Rakitic, Xavi, Busquets have so much quality and it’s difficult when they have possession. Their pressing took a lot out of us, our spirits dropped a bit, and also, Barca have real quality when they have possession. But it was fantastic work from my team.”

At last, a compliment from Nuno for his team. They deserved it.

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