La Liga: Barcelona held to a 2-2 draw after a spirited Villarreal fightback
- The home team scored twice in the second half to end Barcelona's winning run
Barcelona's winning streak came to an end as Villarreal managed to earn a 2-2 draw at home. The away side took the lead in the 20th minute after Ivan Rakitic slotted into an empty net after a lucky richoctet in the box left the keeper stranded. Neymar put the visitors 2-0 up five minutes before half time calmly converting a penalty he won himself.
But Villarreal showed great spirit in the second half and pulled one back in the 57th minute after Claudio Bravo’s save from Denis Suarez’s shot fell kindly to Cedric Bokambu who finished from a tight angle. And five minutes later the Yellow Submarines equalized after Jeremy Mathieu’s unfortunate touch from Soldado’s header deflected the ball into the net.
Villarreal: Asenjo; Mario, Ruiz, Bailly, Rukavina; Castillejo, Trigueros, Bruno, Suarez; Soldado, Bakambu
Barcelona: Bravo; Sergi Roberto, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Turan; Neymar, Messi, Suárez.
First Half: Barca go into a 2-0 lead
Barcelona came into this game on a 38-game unbeaten streak. Having progressed into the quarterfinals of the Champions League on Wednesday after beating Arsenal they looked to continue that good form into this match.
Luis Enrique had rested Suarez for their previous game against Getafe but restored the Uruguayan to the first team for this match. Villarreal’s best player this season had been Denis Suarez and he would prove to be their biggest attacking threat
Barcelona took the lead with their first shot on goal. A free kick from Messi floated into the box and bounced off Suarez, falling into the path of Ivan Rakitic. The Croatian had the easy job of slotting the ball into an empty net after the keeper was left stranded.
Villarreal tried to keep up the pressure in an attempt to get back on level terms but they gave away a penalty in the 40th minute. A looped ball found Neymar in the box and the keeper brought down the Brazilian. He got a hand to the ball but the referee still gave the penalty.
Neymar stepped up to take the spot-kick and calmly slotted it straight down the middle to make it 2-0. As the half-time whistle blew the referee received a round of boos from the stadium.
Second Half: Villarreal fight back
With the game looking comfortable for the away side Luis Enrique brought on Mathieu and Dani Alves 10 minutes into the second half for Gerard Pique and Arda Turan. Villarreal started the better pushing Barcelona into their own half.
Their adventure and attacking play paid off as the home side found a way back into the match in the 57th minute. Denis Suarez who had been their best player so far skipped into the box and worked some space for a shot. The resulting effort was parried by Bravo right into the path of Bokambu who slotted home from close range.
That goal turned the game on its head as Villarreal started to press for an equalizer. Barcelona were rattled as Mathieu who had just come on looked very nervous at the back.
His uncertainty proved to be Barca’s undoing. Five minutes after the first goal a cross into the box found Soldado who’s header flicked off Mathieu and found it’s way into the back of the net. The defender looked shaky after he had come on and it resulted in Barcelona conceding a costly equalizer.
The game started to settle after that as Barcelona kept possession in an attempt to calm down their nerves. But as the game went into the final 10 minutes Villarreal had a strong claim for a penalty. Adrian went down on Mascherano's challenge but the referee denied the home side a late chance to win the game by waving their claims away.
Barcelona's unbeaten run continues but after several consecutive wins, the Catalans showed signs of complacency. Luis Enrique will have time on his hands to think about the result as we enter the international breakPublished 20 Mar 2016, 22:00 IST