Valencia 0-1 Barcelona: Lewandowski late show downs Los Che
Robert Lewandowski's stoppage-time goal earned Barcelona a morale-boosting 1-0 win over Valencia at Mestalla on Saturday.
Both teams had efforts disallowed and also lost players to injury in a game that had otherwise been low on incidents.
That was until Lewandowski popped up to score a 93rd-minute winner, taking Barca back to the top of LaLiga – albeit Real Madrid do not face Girona until Sunday.
Valencia boss Gennaro Gattuso will be disappointed not to have taken something after an impressive defensive effort from his team, only to suffer late heartbreak.
It looked like Ansu Fati was set to give the visitors the lead in the 13th minute when he was played in on goal by Pedri, but Valencia goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili raced out and saved the 19-year-old's effort with his face, while Fati did have the ball in the net 10 minutes later only to see it ruled out for offside.
It was a costly first half as both teams lost players to injury, with Los Che striker Edinson Cavani and Barca centre-back Eric Garcia both being substituted, before Robert Lewandowski hit the post with a header from a Jordi Alba cross.
The hosts thought they had gone ahead just four minutes into the second half when Thierry Correia's cross from the right was directed in by Samuel Lino, but the video assistant referee overturned it after replays showed Marcos Andre had, for reasons only known to himself, handled the ball before it reached Lino.
Substitutes Ferran Torres and Raphinha made a mess of a promising situation with five minutes remaining as Pedri's cut-back was scuffed at close range by the former, before the latter somehow volleyed the loose ball over the bar.
But, with just three minutes of injury time remaining, Raphinha made amends as he lifted a ball into the box for the otherwise quiet Lewandowski to expertly divert into the corner of the net with the outside of his right boot to win it for Barca.
What does it mean? Much-needed positivity for Blaugrana
After a disappointing week that saw them eliminated from the Champions League group stage for the second season running, Barcelona really needed a morale-boosting win here.
It looked like it was not going to happen, especially when Raphinha blazed over.
That man Lewandowski came up with the goods in the end, though, to take them back to the league's summit, at least until Madrid play on Sunday.
Lewy strikes again
It had been a subdued performance from the 34-year-old until stoppage time, having just 32 touches through the game and only four in the Valencia penalty area.
The last touch was crucial, though, Lewandowski scoring his 13th LaLiga goal this season - six ahead of his nearest competitors.
Defence lays foundation for Barca
It may not have been the most exciting performance, but that was partly due to Barca's solidity at the back.
They have now kept 10 clean sheets in 12 LaLiga games, only conceding four goals so far, three of which were against Real Madrid (one v Real Sociedad).
Key Opta Facts
- Lewandowski has scored 13 goals in 12 games for Barcelona in LaLiga. The last player to score more in his first 12 games of a season in the competition was Cristiano Ronaldo with Real Madrid in 2014-15 (20 goals).
- Lewanowski has scored 13 goals in LaLiga this season, only Erling Haaland (17) has scored more goals in top five European leagues than Polish striker.
- Barcelona have kept 10 clean sheets in their 12 games in LaLiga in 2022-23 (W10 D1 L1), recording the most sheet sheets for any team after their first 12 games of a season in the competition's history.
Valencia travel to Real Sociedad next Sunday, while Barcelona have their Champions League dead rubber at Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday before hosting Almeria in LaLiga next Saturday.