Highlights: FC Barcelona 3-2 Villarreal CF; Barca survive scare to stay in touch with Real Madrid
FC Barcelona eventually beat Villarreal 3-2 in a fixture that ended the visitors’ eighteen match unbeaten streak in all competitions. Villarreal also scored for the 26th match in a row this season, and prevented Claudio Bravo from keeping three league clean sheets in a row.
Barca began the game in high spirits, keeping possession and creating lots of chances, but the best ones fell to Luis Suarez, who failed to convert. One of Suarez’s attempts produced a brilliant save from Sergio Asenjo. Villarreal broke the deadlock, at the half-hour mark, against the run of play, when Denis Cheryshev scuffed one past Claudio Bravo.
Right before half time, Lionel Messi made a daunting run into the penalty area, and set up Rafinha Alacantara, whose shot was well saved by Sergio Asenjo. The rebound fell to Neymar Jr, and the Brazilian slotted it into the back of the net.
The second half was more open and Villarreal showed more intensity to go forward. In the 52nd minute, a Gerard Pique error resulted in a fine run on the right flank by Giovani dos Santos, who set up Luciano Vietto, and the Argentine was more than happy to get his 10th league goal.
In the 54th minute, Rafinha blasted in Barcelona’s second, with his left foot. Immediately, in the 56th minute, Luis Suarez assisted Leo Messi, who finished it with his right foot. After Messi’s goal, Villarreal enjoyed a bit more possession than they had in the first half. Barcelona slowed things down, keeping things under control. Andres Iniesta had his best game this season, and his precise passes were a joy to watch.
Rafinha Alacantara was selected by Luis Enrique in the starting XI instead of Rakitic, and the Brazilian repaid Enrique’s trust in him, scoring the second equaliser, and also tracked back well, and has given Luis Enrique more problems to decide the starting XI.
Barcelona retain their second place in the table, with 50 points, one lesser than Real Madrid, and have played one game more than Los Blancos. Villarreal also remain 6th, unchanged.