VALENCIA, Spain– Quique
Setien’s honeymoon period lasted less than a fortnight as he tasted his first
Barcelona defeat on Saturday in his second La Liga game in charge after a 2-0
loss to Valencia.

A Jordi Alba own goal and Maxi Gomez’s strike at Mestalla
raised early doubts about Setien’s appointment and gave Real Madrid the chance
to move three points clear at the top of the table when they visit Real
Valladolid on Sunday.

Sevilla jumped into third, above Atletico Madrid and five
points behind the top two, after they beat Granada 2-0.

Barcelona had most of the ball but Valencia had the best
chances as Gomez missed a penalty and also hit the crossbar in the first half.
Gabriel Paulista saw a third goal ruled out late on.

While performances under previous coach Ernesto Valverde
were stodgy and familiar failings went unresolved, he left a side in first
place.

Setien promised a new style but few will cheer a team that
loses. Despite dominating possession, Barcelona did little with it and as
Valencia grew in confidence, they ceded control too.

“There are things they have not understood or maybe we
have not have explained ourselves well,” Setien said afterwards. “In
the first half, quite frankly, we were bad.”

The question is whether Setien is trying to impose too much
too soon and perhaps whether this group are even well-suited his ideas.

“The players have to adapt to the coaching staff to
understand,” said Sergio Busquets. “There were some good things but we
have to improve.”

Valencia climb to fifth and continue to improve under Albert
Celades. This success came without their captain Dani Parejo and, largely,
without star striker Rodrigo Moreno, who has been linked with a January move to
Barcelona.

The hosts hardly touched the ball for the first six minutes,
their fans whistling as they urged a more aggressive approach.

But the plan was to sit and absorb and it worked, with
Barcelona unable to cut through or create a single clear chance.

– Valencia dangerous –

And when Valencia did intervene, they were more dangerous
too. With their first attack they won a penalty as Jose Gaya slipped past
Gerard Pique and would surely have scored from eight yards before being brought
down.

Pique was booked and, with Parejo absent, Gomez stepped up,
only for his driven shot to be well saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, albeit with
the help of half a yard’s headstart off his line.

Barca were riding their luck. Sergi Roberto’s header
cannoned off Pique but fell just close enough for Ter Stegen, who parried a
Gomez shot onto the crossbar and almost spilled another to Kevin Gameiro.

Referee Gil Manzano puts his hands together as if to
apologise after failing to play advantage when Ferran Torres was clear but the
frustration of Valencia’s fans turned to ecstasy shortly after half-time.

Pique’s flicked header landed at the feet of Gomez, whose
driven effort took a cruel deflection off Alba and flew in.

Setien traded the patience of Arthur Melo for the
physicality of Arturo Vidal and Rodrigo came on to a rousing reception.

Barcelona exerted some pressure and Lionel Messi led the
way, hauled to the ground by Francis Coquelin and then denied by a brilliant
Gabriel tackle. He fired past the post, headed wide and saw a curling free-kick
saved.

Yet just as a Barcelona equaliser began to feel inevitable,
Valencia struck again. A quick throw caught Alba out of position and Torres did
well to cut inside and switch to Gomez. He took a touch and curled into the
corner.

Gabriel thought he had a third after volleying in from a
corner but VAR persuaded Manzano there had been a push. When Messi ballooned a
late free-kick and threw his arms up in despair, Valencia knew their win was
secure.

Sevilla celebrated the club’s 130th anniversary by brushing
aside Granada as Luuk de Jong met Jesus Navas’ cross to put them in front while
Nolito’s subtle finish made it two before half-time. 

“It was a complete performance,” said Sevilla
coach Julen Lopetegui.

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