Valencia Beats Barcelona to Inflict First Loss on Setién

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BARCELONA, Spain — Valencia striker Maxi Gómez scored once and had a key role in an own-goal for his team to beat Barcelona 2-0 in the Spanish league on Saturday.

The loss was the first for Barcelona in three matches under coach Quique Setién, who was hired to replace Ernesto Valverde last week.

Barcelona’s first defeat in 10 rounds means it will lose the league lead if Real Madrid takes a point or more at Valladolid on Sunday. Barcelona leads Madrid on goal difference.

Valencia went ahead through an own-goal by Jordi Alba in the 48th minute. Gómez’s volley was going wide but it deflected off the Barcelona left back and went into the net.

Gómez made it 2-0 in the 77th, making up for his missed penalty attempt in the first half.

It was host Valencia’s first victory over Barcelona in 13 consecutive visits by Lionel Messi’s side to the Mestalla Stadium.

Setién was brought in to give a boost to Barcelona’s attack which the club believed had strayed from its traditional high-possession passing game under Valverde.

Valencia, however, was content to let Barcelona dominate possession and seek to hit on the break.

“We didn’t play well in the first half,” Setién said. “We were not in the right positions in some areas and did not understand what Valencia was doing. We made passes just to make them, but they didn’t gain us any advantages.”

The hosts outplayed Barcelona in the first half and were only stopped from going ahead before halftime by Marc-Andre ter Stegen. The Germany goalkeeper saved Gómez’s penalty in the 12th after Gerard Pique fouled José Gayá in the area. Ter Stegen also parried the Valencia striker’s powerful shot onto his goal frame in the 29th.

Barcelona had difficulties keeping in check Gayá and other players who attacked down the flanks, with its new three-man back line deployed by Setién.

Messi mustered almost all of Barcelona’s chances except for a shot by Ansu Fati moments into the second half that went wide.

The visitors improved after Setién sent on substitute Arturo Vidal with Barca trailing by a goal. The midfielder combined passes with Messi to help set up two chances for the club’s all-time leading scorer near the half-hour mark.

But even Messi was lacking his usually impeccable finishing touch.

Valencia finished Barcelona off when Gómez was left unmarked to beat Ter Stegen with a pinpoint strike after Carlos Soler’s dummy run drew off the last defender on a quick counterattack. Ferrán Torres then found Gómez all alone in the area to take his time to fire home.

Valencia, which was without suspended midfielder Dani Parejo, moved into fifth place.

Valencia’s Rodrigo Moreno started the match on the bench before coming on in the second half amid rumors that Barcelona could be interesting in acquiring the Spain striker to fill in for the injured Luis Suárez.