Magnificent Messi bags brace as Barcelona draws Valencia

With Atletico Madrid maintaining striking distance in the La Liga title race, Barcelona can’t afford to trip up too often.

The Blaugrana did on Saturday, and thanks to Lionel Messi, it wasn’t worse.

Messi scored twice to erase a two-goal deficit and earn Barcelona a point in a 2-2 draw against Valencia at the Nou Camp.

Barcelona fell behind midway through the first half when Valencia hit the hosts on the counter, and Rodrigo Moreno burst forward on a long run before sliding a pass to Kevin Gameiro for a slick finish.

Sergi Roberto fouled Daniel Wass in the penalty box less than 10 minutes later, and Daniel Parejo converted the spot kick to doubled the advantage.

But Messi pulled one back with a penalty of his own right before halftime, and produced a moment of absolute brilliance to level the match in the 64th minute, freezing Valencia goalkeeper Neto solid with a left-footed laser (via BeIN Sport):

Messi now has 12 goals in his last nine games across all competitions for Barcelona, and has scored in every match since being shut out by Tottenham Hotspur after coming on as a substitute in the Champions League on Dec. 11.

Barcelona owns a six-point edge on Atleti, which will travel to play mid-table Real Betis on Sunday. The Catalans are facing a rough February schedule, with a pair of El Clasicos against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey semifinals, starting on Wednesday at the Nou Camp, as well as trips to Sevilla in La Liga and Lyon in the Champions League.

Their depth will be tested as their focus is pulled in different directions, and if they’re not careful, even Messi won’t be incredible enough to prevent Atletico Madrid from mounting a truly threatening title challenge.

Joey Gulino is the editor of Yahoo Soccer and moonlights as a writer. Follow him on Twitter at @JGulinoYahoo.

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