In a close-contested La Liga game, Barcelona overcame Villareal 2-1, courtesy an Antoine Griezmann brace. With the win, the Blaugrana have moved to within two points off league leaders Atletico Madrid, who lost at Athletic Bilbao.
After an indifferent start to their league campaign, Barcelona have won seven of their last eight games to firmly return to reckoning in a gripping three-way title race with Atletico Madrid and holders Real Madrid.
Samuel Chukweze opened the scoring after a defence-splitting pass from Pau Torres in the 26th minute, but Barcelona provided a swift response. Griezmann beat Sergio Asenjo with a delicate chip to restore parity for his team.
Soon, it was Griezmann who scored what turned out to be the winner of the game after Villareal's Juan Foyth carelessly played the ball into the 30-year-old's path. The Frenchman was alert and capitalised on the right back's mistake to give his team a lead they never relinquished.
Villarreal, however, were far from done in the game. Despite losing Manu Trigueros to a red card, the 10-men hosts bombarded Barcelona's half with everything they had to offer, but a Gerard Pique-led defence helped the Blaugrana emerge unscathed.
Unai Emery and co. must be disappointed that they couldn't achieve something from the game. But it was an efficient and promising performance from the Yellow Submarine ahead of their Europa League clash against Arsenal. Meanwhile, Ronald Koeman, must be delighted with the way Barcelona protected their slender lead against a tricky opposition.
On that note, let's take a look at the Barcelona player ratings.
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen - 8/10
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen was immaculate on the night. The Barcelona custodian made three crucial saves from inside the box, including one from Etienne Capoue in the latter minutes of the game. The 27-year-old also played out seven accurate long balls.
Clement Lenglet - 7/10
The Frenchman has had a fluctuating run of games this season. Clement Lenglet has often been criticised for being inconsistent but produced one of his better performances against Villareal. The former Sevilla defender won 75% of his duels and also made three interceptions, two tackles and two clearances.
Gerard Pique - 6/10
Gerard Moreno gave his namesake a tough 90 minutes, but it was the 34-year-old Pique who eventually came out on top. Moreno, despite having a few chances to alter the scoreline, couldn't impact the game throughout the 90, while Pique led the Barcelona defence with aplomb.
Oscar Mingueza - 7/10
Oscar Mingueza has definitely been a revelation for Barcelona this season. The La Masia graduate has become an important player in Koeman's XI. Although not the best in terms of positioning, the 21-year-old was efficient with every touch and tackle he made on the pitch. He also assisted Griezmann for Barcelona's equaliser on the night.
Sergio Busquets - 6/10
Not one of his best outings, Sergio Busquets was ineffective during Villarreal's lethal transitions. Despite winning four tackles, the Spaniard was often outplayed by the pair of Dani Parejo and Capoue.
Sergino Dest - 6/10
Sergino Dest is another player who didn't seem to have the best of games. Although he did win a few dribbles on the right flank, Alberto Moreno and Trigueros often got the better of him, as he was often outnumbered.
Frenkie de Jong - 7/10
The former Ajax midfielder would be upset not to have scored, as he had two gild-edged chances to put the game to bed. However, with three key passes, a big chance created and a 91% passing accuracy, the 22-year-old Frenkie de Jong had a fabulous outing.
Pedri - 5/10
A golden boy amongst the seasoned pros, Pedri has burst onto the scene brilliantly. The La Masia graduate has seemingly won over Koeman, Pedri has had a brilliant debut season. But against Villareal, he had an outing to forget. The 18-year-old couldn't do much with the ball at his feet against a resilient Villarreal defence.
Jordi Alba - 8/10
It was an excellent performance from the Barcelona left-back at La Ceramica. Jordi Alba made three interceptions, three tackles, one big chance created and a whooping 72 touches and two key passes on the night.
Antoine Griezmann - 9/10
The embattled Antonie Griezmann has found his feet under Ronald Koeman after a difficult debut campaign last season. The Frenchman has been one of Barcelona's better players in the past few months. He showed his quality against Villareal, bagging two key goals today to take his goal tally for the season to 11.
Lionel Messi - 7/10
Barcelona's talisman had a rare off day as Griezmann took over the scoring duties. Villarreal's midfield didn't offer Lionel Messi much space to operate in, as the Argentine won just eight of his 15 attempted duels.
Ratings of Barcelona Substitutes
Sergi Roberto - 7/10
La Masia graduate Sergi Roberto came on in the second half to replace Dest, whose final ball deliveries were quite underwhelming. Koeman's substitution worked, as Roberto was reliable at both ends of the pitch.
Ilaix Moriba - 6/10
Ilaix Moriba had a golden chance to seal the game minutes after coming on, as he got on the end of a Roberto cross but failed to put it in the back of the net. Nevertheless, the 18-year-old provided more pace, physicality and threat inside and around the box against Villareal than Pedri did.
Ousmane Dembele - 6/10
Ousmane Dembele replaced Griezmann for the final ten minutes as the home side left plenty of space to exploit. Fresh legs and Dembele's pace could've helped Barcelona score a third goal when Villarreal pushed up high. Dembele created a good chance for De Jong, but the midfielder put that wastefully wide.
Ronald Araujo - N/A
Ronald Araujo did not play enough to warrant a rating.