Barca’s third defeat in a row sees nine-point La Liga lead wiped out

Barcelona's title ambitions were dealt a further blow as they were beaten 2-1 at home by Valencia, suffering a third consecutive league defeat for the first time since 2003.

An own goal by Ivan Rakitic gave Valencia a shock lead on 27 minutes and Santi Mina doubled their advantage just before the break.

Lionel Messi scored his 500th career goal for club and country to reduce the deficit midway through the second half, but was unable to inspire a comeback.

Barca remain top of the Primera Division on 76 points but are only ahead of Atletico Madrid due to their superior head-to-head record. Just three weeks ago they led Diego Simeone's side at the top by nine points.

Tonight's result means Barca have now picked up just one point from their last four league games and, if that was not bad enough, they were also knocked out of the Champions League quarter-finals by Atletico in midweek.

With hopes of a second successive treble now in tatters, Luis Enrique returned to his usual starting line-up after his rotations against Real Sociedad backfired, but dropped Dani Alves, who had irked some supporters by posting a light-hearted video on Instagram after the European defeat to Atletico, in favour of Sergi Roberto.

Valencia were returning to the scene of their worst defeat in 24 years, a 7-0 Copa del Rey semi-final humiliation here marking the beginning of the end of Gary Neville's brief tenure.

Pako Ayestaran took a different approach to his predecessor, ordering his team to press Barca high, although the home side had the better of the earlier stages.

Suarez, who had scored four goals in the cup tie, spurned two opportunities and Messi and Neymar each had shots repelled by goalkeeper Diego Alves.

Valencia's high pressing led to their first attempt, Mina winning the ball and Enzo Perez sliding a pass to Rodrigo, who narrowly missed the near post.

There was an element of fortune to Valencia's opener. Guilherme Siqueira attacked down the left and his cross deflected off the boot of the sliding Rakitic, and Bravo was unable to prevent the ball beating him at his near post.

Barca were rocked by conceding and struggled to regain their composure for the remainder of the half. Alves again denied Messi, this time saving the Argentinian's header with his feet, but Valencia continued to cause problems on the break.

Siqueira brought a promising move to an end with a wayward shot, but Valencia grabbed their second on the stroke of half-time.

Dani Parejo drove forward and intelligently slipped a pass out to Mina, who shot across Bravo and his driven effort was too powerful for the Chilean.

Valencia continued to frustrate Barca in the second half but Messi pulled the hosts back into the game in the 63rd minute, arriving to meet Jordi Alba's low cross from eight yards out to finally beat Alves.

The Brazilian goalkeeper had the final say though, reaching to his right to tip away a goal-bound effort from Rakitic, while Gerard Pique missed a gilt edged chance to level in injury time, firing wide of the near post.

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