La Liga: Messi's penalty pushes Barcelona ahead of Valencia
Barca had to wait until deep into stoppage time when Messi stroked home his 14th goal of the season to secure a vital three points in the title race. Photograph: (AFP)
Lionel Messi shrugged off his recent woes from the penalty spot with a decisive 94th-minute spot-kick to move Barcelona top of La Liga with a pulsating 3-2 win at Valencia on Saturday.
Messi netted twice and his opener midway through the first half was allowed to stand despite Luis Suarez straying into an offside position.
However, it was Valencia who were up in arms at the officials when Messi opened the scoring on 22 minutes.
The Argentine's fifth goal in three games since returning from a groin injury sneaked in at Alves's near post, but the Brazilian goalkeeper had been distracted by the presence of the offside Suarez jumping over Messi's effort.
"It is lamentable, absolutely lamentable that refereeing decisions prevented Valencia from taking a point or more from this match," Valencia sporting director Jesus Garcia Pitarch told BeIN Sports Spain.
Valencia hit back with two goals in six second-half minutes through on-loan Barca winger Munir El Haddadi and Rodrigo.
Valencia's lead lasted just six minutes despite Alves's best efforts as Suarez pounced to smash home a rebound after Ivan Rakitic's powerful header had been saved by the Valencia stopper.
Barca swarmed forward in search of a winner, but had to wait until deep into stoppage time when Messi played in Suarez and he was clearly taken out from behind by Abdennour. Messi stroked home his 14th goal of the season to secure a vital three points in the title race.
A bad-tempered encounter spilled over after Messi's strike, though, as Suarez and Neymar were hit by a plastic bottle thrown by the Valencia fans as Barca celebrated.
The victory moves the champions a point clear of Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, who face Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao respectively on Sunday.
But as Barcelona celebrated, a teary-eyed captain Andres Iniesta was carried from the field following a knee injury, possibly ruled out for six to eight weeks. (AFP)
However, the dramatic victory came at a cost for Barca as a tearful Andres Iniesta suffered ligament damage in his right knee that could keep him out for several months.
The game was only 14 minutes old when Iniesta was carried from the field in tears holding his right knee, which buckled under a heavy challenge from Enzo Perez.
Barca confirmed Iniesta suffered lateral collateral ligament damage, but said further tests would be carried out to determine the exact extent of the injury.