CELTIC’S Europa League rivals Valencia were denied a victory over Barcelona last night when Lionel Messi again came to the rescue of his team.

The hosts were 2-0 down after 32 minutes and relied upon some magic from the five-time World Player of the Year, who followed up his first-half penalty with a superb equaliser.

But, despite Messi’s 11th goal in his last nine matches in all competitions, Barca’s run of eight successive La Liga wins came to an end against excellent opponents.

Valencia, who face the Hoops at Parkhead on February 14 and at the Mestalla a week later, stunned the hosts early on.

Within two minutes they had hit the woodwork through Denis Cheryshev, who beat the keeper with his angled shot but not the far post.

However, they made the breakthrough when Dani Parejo robbed Messi on the edge of his own team’s penalty area and set in motion a speedy counter-attack that saw Rodrigo Moreno drive down the middle before setting up Kevin Gameiro to fire home.

The visitors doubled their advantage when Sergi Roberto felled Daniel Wass in the box and playmaker Parejo converted from the resultant penalty-kick.

Messi pulled one back with a 39th-minute effort from the spot after Nelson Samedo had been fouled by Toni Lato.

In the second-half, the Argentinian superstar struck again with a curling shot which left keeper Neto with no chance.

The Hoops’ opponents are now seventh in La Liga on 30 points, 20 behind Barca after a slow start to the campaign which is now picking up momentum.

* Don’t miss the unbeatable match report and action images from St Johnstone v Celtic this afternoon – only in your unbeatable CQN.

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