Priceless Messi stuns Valencia with hat-trick

Posted by Francesc Tomas

Barcelona achieved a remarkable 3-2 win against Valencia at the Estadio Mestalla in Matchday 3 of La Liga. Lionel Messi (hat-trick) scored the goals for the Blaugrana, who enjoyed 62 percent of possession, created 20 goalscoring chances and attempted 15 shots, nine of them on target. This result helps Gerardo Martino's side stay at the top of the table with 9 out of 9 points, tied with Atletico de Madrid, Villarreal and Real Madrid.

Man of the Match -- As if spurred by the extortionate amount of cash that Madrid splashed out on signing Gareth Bale minutes before the game kicked off, Messi jumped on the pitch determined to show why he continues to be the best player on the planet after many years at the top. Even before the first half ended, the quadruple Ballon d'Or winner had already scored the 26th hat-trick of his career.

Honestly, there is very little to say about Messi that hasn't been said before. The Argentinean captain is a deadly striker, a master at dribbling, brilliant off the ball and always inventive when re-positioning himself away from his markers but, most importantly, he makes the team better whenever he wears the Blaugrana.

250 goals for the Blaugrana. 100 goals in 125 appearances away from the Camp Nou in La Liga. 25 goals in 17 matches in the domestic league in 2013. Top goalscorer of the current season, with 5 goals in 2 matches... While the list of individual records continues to grow, it is how those stats help the team achieve collective targets regularly that matters the most.

Key 1 – Neymar is slowly but surely finding his feet at Barcelona. His movement on and off the ball was much better than in previous matches, not simply opening the pitch by staying wide open on the left wing but often cutting inside looking for shots and through passes instead.

For the first time from his arrival at Catalunya, the talented Brazilian was also capable of linking with Lionel Messi regularly upfront. The Dynamic Duo often picked each other up by running into the spaces they created for each other; a clear sign that their long-awaited partnership is now firmly up and running. Such early signs of understanding are a major positive which should, once and for all, put all of those unfounded rumours of disagreements between the pair to rest once and for all.

Neymar was also seen backtracking more often into more defensive positions if needed, putting that all-important defensive effort to chase his marker when dispossessed -- a clear sign of how much he is prepared to improve in order to compete with Pedro, Alexis and Tello for a place in the starting eleven.

Key 2 – El Tata opted to leave Xavi Hernandez resting at Barcelona before he leaves on international duty for the next two weeks. Yes, you read that right: The club that pays the 33-year-old's wages had to leave him out of their squad as they know that the Spanish coach will want him to play unless he is clearly injured.

In his absence, Cesc Fabregas took the responsibility of leading the team's creative midfield as, regrettably, Iniesta was far from his best due to lack of optimum fitness once again. The former Arsenal captain provided a more direct alternative to the game that Xavi has accustomed Cules to, conducting the game in a fresher way, constantly influencing his teammates by creating many opportunities in transition.

Key 3 – Despite leading comfortably by 3-0 after 40 minutes, Barcelona conceded two quick goals before halftime, allowing the hosts back into a game that should have already slipped away from their hands.

The Catalans should have been much better at killing the game by keeping possession at that stage, at least until the half-time whistle. Exposing the team defensively in that manner could have been a very costly mistake; the team should have been more intelligent. In fact, if it wasn't for Valdes' brilliant saves, Valencia wouldn't have come out of this game empty handed.

I am aware that this may sound repetitive to regular readers of this column, but I personally find conceding goals from setpieces increasingly annoying thanks to the board's inexplicable decision to reject the signing of any taller, experienced center-back ahead of this season despite them having clearly promised to do so.

How many more goals must Barcelona leak before Sandro Rosell and Andoni Zubizarreta realise the squad lacks height to compete at the highest level? The fact that such evident problem has not been solved during this summer's transfer window is unacceptable but, unfortunately, it doesn't look like the club directors have any desire to invest heavily in order to solve it any time soon.

Player Ratings (0-10; 10=best)

Victor Valdes (8)

Daniel Alves (5), Gerard Pique (6), Javier Mascherano (7), Jordi Alba (5)

Sergio Busquets (7), Cesc Fabregas (7), Andres Iniesta (6)

Lionel Messi (9), Neymar Jr (8), Pedro Rodriguez (5)

Substitutes: Cristian Tello (6), Jonathan Dos Santos (6), Sergi Roberto (n/a)

The Quote – "This was the best version of Barcelona we have seen this year. We found more of our football; I would have been satisfied with this game even if the result hadn't been favourable. We were more dynamic, more mobile, the Messi-Neymar connection appeared... Valencia tried to win the match; Barcelona were better." -- Martino.

Have your say

What did you think of the Blaugrana performance vs. Valencia?

Who was your Man of the Match? Do you agree with the Player Ratings?

I welcome and appreciate all respectful feedback.

Follow Francesc Tomas at @TomasESPN and Barcablog Facebook for more news and opinion notes on Barcelona; 34,500 Cules have already joined.

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