1-0, Angulo (min 52)
2-0, Silva (min 55)
2-1, Ronaldinho (min 92)
Two goals from Valencia early in the second half were enough to secure the three points and condemn Barça to defeat in the game that the champions dominated for long periods. Ronaldinho scored Barça's only goal in the 92nd minute.
Barça matched the home side throughout the encounter but in the end they were unable to secure any points for the game. The two Valencian goals at the beginning of the second half proved decisive. Deep into injury time Ronaldinho pulled a goal back for the champions by firing home one of his trade-mark free-kicks. On a positive note the game marked the return of Leo Messi who came on as a second half substitute and showed that he is fully recovered from injury. Despite the 2-1 defeat Barça still maintain top spot in the league.
Two distinct styles
Barça and València are two teams with contrasting styles and that was clearly evident in the first period. Rikjaard's team dominated possession in the opening period while Valencia were content to play on the counter-attack. In the first half there were only a handful of chances for each of the sides. David Villa had the first chance as early as the 6th minute when he was put through on goal by Fernando Morientes. However, Barça keeper Victor Valdes was able to keep the Asturian striker at bay.
The rain in Spain
During the first period the rain falling over Mestalla began to intensify, something that made the playing surface to become much faster. As the minutes ticked on Barça's started to control the game more and more. Deco, Xavi and Márquez asserted themselves in midfield whilst Barça's defence came under little pressure. Barça's best first half chance came in the 31st minute when good work from Iniesta provided Eidur Gudjohnsen with a scoring chance but the Icelandic striker pulled his shot wide at the near post. Ableda had the only other clear chance in the first half in the 41st minute following a clever one-two with Angulo but he shot went directly wide. The most negative thing for Barça in the first half were the two yellow cards shown to Edmilson and Zambrotta, the Italian will now miss next Sunday's clash with Athletic Bilbao.
Barcelona lost control of the game at the start of the second half when Valencia stepped up a gear. The game was won and lost in only 3 minutes shortly after the restart. In the 52nd minute Villa controlled the ball inside the Barça area and threaded a pass between Edmilson and Puyol for Angulo to slot the ball into the Barça net past Valdes. Barcelona had a chance to strike back immediately when Ronaldinho almost got on the end of a cross from Deco. Unfortunately Barça were to be dealt a second blow in the 55th minute when Fernando Morientes cross was parried by Valdes only for Silva to pounce on the loose ball and double the home sides advantage. Barça could without doubt count themselves unfortunate to fall further behind. On the balance of play the 2-0 scoreline flattered Valencia.
In the 61st minute with tension rising on the pitch, tempers began to flare and both sides were reduced to ten men when Abelda and Deco were sent off. The Valencia captain saw red following a dangerous tackle on substitute Lionel Messi. The red card for Barça's Portuguese international was for retaliation although it seemed a little harsh.
Fight to the finish
With Messi and Giuly on the pitch and with 10 players, Rikjaard made some tactical changes that gave Ronaldinho and Messi more freedom. Both players lead the Barcelona fight back, the Argentinian's performance after 3 months out injured was the most positive note for Barça on the night. Despite all their efforts Barça could not break down Valencia's defensive wall. Ronaldinho eventually managed to pull a goal back for the champions in the 92nd minute after drilling home a free-kick from outside the area. However, it was too little too late and just two minutes later the final whistle sounded to the delight and relief of the home supporters.
Valencia and FC Barcelona have won 28 each of the 71 meetings in Valencia over the years, with the other 15 games ending in draws. In terms of goals, Valencia have scored 120 to Barça's 112. The last time the Catalans won at Mestalla was a 2-0 victory in 2004/05.
FC Barcelona visit Valencia tonight (19:00, Barça TV) in the first of a series of important games. Frank Rijkaard's men will be hoping to continue the form they showed against Racing Santander.
Barça have a series of extremely important games ahead of them in three different competitions, all beginning with tonight's match at Mestalla. After a fine performance last weekend at home to Racing Santander, the side have had the ideal boost to morale, added to which was the great news that Frank Rijkaard has announced that he will be staying at the Camp Nou next season.
Eto'o case put behind them: In the build up to the game it cannot be ignored that things have been affected by the incidents surrounding Samuel Eto'o's declarations this week. But the squad has shown its typical unity and it seems unlikely that any of this has had a negative effect on preparations. The Cameroonian has been left out of the team this weekend in order to give him more time to make sure he is properly recovered from his long term injury. Eidur Gudjohnsen, meanwhile, gets a call up.
Looking to win away: The Barça players are keen to collect their first three points from an away trip since November 11 in Mallorca. That won't be easy at Mestalla, however, where Valencia have won their last four league games. But a win today would leave Barcelona no fewer than ten points clear of one of their most direct challengers in the title race.
Valencia struggling with injuries: FC Barcelona have almost the full squad available, although Thuram is injured, while Valencia have all kinds of problems to contend with. Coach Quique Sánchez Flores is without goalkeeper Cañizares, with flu, and both Baraja and Vicente have muscle injuries. Regueiro, Gavilán and Edú are also injured.