Yunus Musah grabbed his first La Liga goal of the season to give Valencia momentary hope against Atletico, while Sergiño Dest and Barcelona kept Alaves at bay long enough for the team to score a desperate winner.
Atletico Madrid 3 – 2 Valencia CF
Valencia looked to be cruising to a confidence-building victory at Atletico Madrid on Saturday evening, following the opening goal by American international Yunus Musah, however a late collapse left them with nothing but heartbreak.
Just before heading across the Atlantic for USMNT duty, Musah earned his fifth straight start for Valencia across all competitions.
While his presence on the left side of a three-man midfield was minimized by a stifling performance by the hosts, he nevertheless did the one thing he hadn’t done in any La Liga appearance so far – score a goal – likely securing his continued starting role when he returns fro international duty.
His opener came in the 24th minute on a Valencia counter that caught Atletico completely off-guard. Goncalo Guedes advanced up the left wing and drew the general attention of the Atletico back-line in his direction, allowing Musah to break free on the opposite side of the field with no defender in sight.
Guedes lofted a crossfield pass to the American, who took his time to receive the ball, settle, advance just into the area, and unleash a low shot to the lower left corner for the 1-0 lead.
One minute before the half, Hugo Duro doubled the advantage, benefiting from a chaotic struggle for possession just outside the Atletico area, before having the ball poked forward into his path, and striking an opportunistic low shot past the stunned keeper for the two-goal lead.
Even though Atletico pulled one back in the 63rd minute when Matheus Cunha escaped several defenders on a corner to tap in the 2-1, the game still looked to be safely in Valencia’s favor heading into the final minutes.
Musah was subbed out in the 88th minute in favor of the more defense-oriented Uros Racic for the final press, however the hosts earned a point – seemingly – with a spectacular equalizer just past the end of regulation.
Luis Suarez’s sliding attempt was thwarted by Valencia keeper Jaume Domenech, however Angel Correa was in perfect position to put the 2-2 over the line.
Not happy to settle for only the draw, Atletico proceeded to earn the win just past the 92-minute mark, with Cunha providing the low cross from the right side of the box to Mario Hermoso for an emphatic finish.
The disappointing capitulation of three points drops Valencia to tenth place in the La Liga standings. They are scheduled to play Cadiz in Copa del Rey action on February 2, while Musah is on international duty, then will host Real Sociedad four days later.
Alaves 0 – 1 Barcelona
Sergiño Dest went the distance for Barcelona on Sunday evening, covering for recently-overworked Dani Alves as the Blaugrana saved it for late in their ultimately successful visit to Alaves.
Matt Miazga was in uniform for the hosts, however stayed glued to the bench for the duration of the game.
Barcelona was comically exhaustively dominant in possession over the overmatched opponents a way reminiscent of their bygone tika taka days, holding the ball 75% of the time, however the payoff was mostly lacking, with an 87th-minute winner ultimately saving them embarrassment.
Dest started at right back in place of Alves, and was heavily on the ball, with 79 total contacts, and an 88% completion rate of his 51 attempts.
As has often been the case in the new Xavi era, the team had to avoid disaster by the skin of their teeth. In the 87th minute, Frenkie de Jong broke free into the six-yard box to accept a short cross from Jordi Alba, and easily put away his shot into the open net for the winner.
Despite many questions still remaining about their ability to close out games they should win easily, Barcelona do climb to fifth with the victory, now only one point out of the Champions League places. They will face the team directly above them – Atletico Madrid – on February 6 in a highlight game that will have major implications for European qualification.
Matthew Hoppe stayed on Mallorca’s bench on Saturday for their 3-0 loss at Villarreal. Having been passed over for international duty, Hoppe will be available for their February 2 Copa del Rey game at Rayo Vallecano.
Shaq Moore was an 84th-minute substitute for Tenefife on Friday as they smashed Real Oviedo by a 4-0 margin in La Liga B.
Jonathan Gomez is still awaiting his debut with Real Sociedad B, and was not in uniform for their 2-1 home loss to Cartagena in La Liga B action on Monday night.