Lionel Messi registered his 20th assist of the season in the Spanish La Liga as Barcelona maintained pressure on leaders Real Madrid with a 1-0 victory over Real Valladolid at the Jose Zorrilla stadium.
Barcelona coach Quique Setien deployed a 3-5-2 formation with Nelson Semedo and Jordi Alba as wing-backs, while the versatile Sergi Roberto dropped into the back three.
Even as Barcelona’s turbulent domestic campaign draws to a close, Messi continues to shine. His delightful pass for Arturo Vidal in the 15th minute, a scoop between two Valladolid defenders, setup the Chilean who fired the ball into the net.
Messi became the first player to provide 20 assists in Spain’s top flight since Xavi Hernandez in 2009.
Messi also became the second player in the 21st century from the five major European leagues (England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France) to hit 20 goals and 20 assists in the same campaign, after Arsenal’s Thierry Henry in the 2002-2003 season.
Number 1 goalscorer
Number 1 assist provider
Number 1 goathttps://t.co/KLvliU4kfO
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) July 12, 2020
However, Barcelona failed to build on their early advantage and were forced to grind out the victory in the second half as Valladolid took the game to the champions.
Valladolid’s forward Enes Unal forced Barcelona’s goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to stretch across goal and tip away his shot, moments after Kike Perez missed the target from inside the area as the home side made a lively start after the break.
Ter Stegen was forced into action once again in added time to stop a shot from former Barca forward Sandro Ramirez as the visitors were left begging for the final whistle to arrive.
The tough victory moved second-placed Barca to within a point of Real Madrid, who can restore their four-point advantage when they visit Granada on Monday, while Valladolid remain in 14th place.
If La Liga leaders Real Madrid beat Granada and follow that with victory at home to Villarreal on Thursday, they will be crowned champions for the first time since 2017.
Other La Liga results
Osasuna 2-1 Celta Vigo
Atletico Madrid 1-0 Real Betis