x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Absent Messi, Neymar carries Barcelona past Valladolid

Barca went five points clear of Real Madrid with a 4-1 win, their eighth victory in eight matches.

Neymar had one goal and one assist for Barcelona on Saturday. Toni Albir / EPA
Neymar had one goal and one assist for Barcelona on Saturday. Toni Albir / EPA

MADRID // Barcelona continued their storming start to La Liga as they came from behind to beat Valladolid 4-1 and register an eighth win in eight games.

Real Madrid, meanwhile, remain five points behind but needed two injury time goals from Alvaro Morata and Cristiano Ronaldo to win 3-2 away to Levante.

Barca were without World Player of the Year Lionel Messi due to a thigh injury, but his absence wasn’t noticed thanks to another fanstastic performance by Neymar.

Javi Guerra had headed Valladolid into a shock 10th minute lead, but Alexis Sanchez responded with a stunning strike just four minutes later to level.

Neymar then took over as he fed Cristian Tello, who in turn cut the ball back for Xavi to make it 2-1 just after the break.

The Brazilian was involved again in the third goal as he released Sanchez to slot home his second of the evening 25 minutes from time.

Sanchez returned the favour six minutes later to allow Neymar to register his third Barcelona goal.

And the Chilean refuted suggestions that it is easier for he and Neymar to express themselves without Messi.

“Neymar plays like Neymar, everyone has their own style of play,” Sanchez told Gol TV.

“Messi is distinct. They are two different players. I don’t think you can say we have more freedom when Messi isn’t playing. When he isn’t there we have more work to do because playing with Messi is easy.”