Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a hat-trick as Barcelona condemned Valencia to a disappointing 4-1 defeat at Mestalla.
The stadium has been a happy hunting ground for the Gabon international, having scored a hat-trick in his previous match there in Arsenal’s 4-2 win over Valencia at the Europa League semifinals in 2019.
The win kept Barcelona in the top four for the third successive week.
The Catalonians currently have 42 points under their belt, same as Atletico Madrid, but they have a match in hand and a superior goal difference than Diego Simeone’s side.
Winless luckless Valencia
Valencia are still winless in the league in 2022, and the defeat pushed them to the 12th position with 30 points.
The pressure on Jose Bordalas was already piling up, and getting thrashed at home by an in-transition Barca side will not help his case.
The home side started with a high press to force the Barcelona backline into making mistakes.
They did find the net on two occasions, but none of those stood.
Marc Andre ter Stegen could not keep hold of a Jose Gaya cross and conceded a hilarious own goal, but the German shot-stopper was relieved when the offside flag went up.
Later, Carlos Soler saw the VAR chalking off his goal as the ball went out of play during the build-up.
Ruthless finishing by Barcelona
Throughout this season, poor finishing has cost Barcelona, but they were exceptionally clinical in front of goal yesterday.
They had scored from all three of their on-target shots, as Barcelona finished the first half with a 3-0 lead.
Aubameyang skillfully drove a Jordi Alba long ball into the net to score his first goal since October.
Alba released Ousmane Dembele later on. The former BVB forward set up Frankie de Jong for a tap-in.
The third came through a beautifully coordinated move and Aubameyang, once again, applied the finishing touch.
Valencia show some fight
Valencia did not let their shoulder drop, however, and came out in the second half as a rejuvenated force.
Carlos Soler pulled one back with a brilliant header early in the half, boosting the hosts’ hopes for a comeback.
But Barca regained their three-goal cushion as Pedri’s long-range effort took a deflection off Aubameyang’s back and flew into the top corner of the Valencia net.
Valencia refused to back down and tested Ter Stegan multiple times. The 29-year-old pulled off some good saves to keep the score unchanged.