Alexis Sanchez scored twice, and Neymar earned a goal and an assist as Barcelona came from behind to beat Valladolid 4-1 at Camp Nou on Saturday.
The victory, their eighth on the bounce in La Liga, takes them three points above idle Atletico Madrid and five clear of Real Madrid heading into the international break.
But it was Valladolid who made the quick start—Javi Guerra finding the back of the net for the guests after just 10 minutes.
Adriano, who was charged with marking Guerra, should have done better on Patrick Ebert’s corner-kick, but Guerra, unmarked, was able to place a free header inside the far post to give Valladolid the early lead.
It lasted only four minutes.
Just prior to the quarter-hour mark Barcelona were level thanks to Sanchez's first of the night.
Having accepted Cristian Tello’s pass, the Chile international ran straight at a pair of opposition defenders before drilling a left-footed shot that left Valladolid goalkeeper Diego Marino with no chance as it bulged the back of the net at the near corner.
Ebert and Zakarya Bergdich continued to pester the Barcelona defense with the odd counter-attack to close out the first half, but just seven minutes after the restart Barcelona took the lead for good.
Once again Tello played provider, sending Neymar’s ball across the face of goal for Xavi to one-touch past Marino.
Twelve minutes later Sanchez got his second.
The influential Xavi had a hand in the buildup as he sprung Neymar with an accurate through-ball. Rather than take the shot himself, the Brazilian laid the ball off to Sanchez, who stroked it into goal.
Desperate to get his own name on the scoresheet, Neymar finally achieved his breakthrough in the 70th minute when Sanchez, on a hat-trick, unselfishly cut the ball back to his teammate for an easy finish inside the right-hand post.
Key Player Grades
Alexis Sanchez: A+
His two goals and overall performance will almost certainly keep him in Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino’s squad when Lionel Messi returns from injury later this month, but it was the unselfishness of his pass to Neymar with 20 minutes remaining that really capped off a special evening for the Chilean.
The Brazilian barely put a foot wrong over the 90 minutes and probably should have been awarded a penalty in the first half. But he went to ground far too easily on two other occasions, although it will be his contributions to Barcelona’s buildup play that people will remember from this match.
Javi Guerra: B+
Guerra took his header well in the 10th minute and made a nuisance of himself throughout the balance of the match. He also threw himself into a defensive role for Valladolid, who put at least nine men behind the ball more often than not.
Barcelona will return from the international break with a Primera Division match away to Osasuna on October 19. Three days later they’ll be at the San Siro to face AC Milan in the Champions League. Valladolid will host Sevilla on October 20 and travel to Rayo Vallecano on October 26.
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