For the first time since 2006/2007, Barcelona managed to beat Villareal at Camp Nou. But it was not an easy win, far from it. In order to get the three points Barcelona had to fight against an excellent Villareal team, an inadequate referee and their own defensive struggles. Only the genius of Lionel Messi granted Barcelona the win in a match that could easily have ended with a different result.
Barcelona started the game strong, forcing Villareal to play in their own half. In the 21st minute, Villa opened the score with one of his trademark goals, after Messi had already wasted an excellent opportunity earlier. It looked like it would be an easy match for the blaugrana.
In the 26th minute, though, Villareal tied the score thanks to one of the most abysmal referee decisions ever seen in football; Messi and Pedro sprung the offside trap only for the linesman to inexplicably flag them off and deny them the goal. In the very next phase of play, while Pep Guardiola and the Barcelona players were still amazed with this absolutely ridiculous decision, Villareal equalized by Nilmar who easily waltzed through an unfocused Barcelona defensive line.
It should have been 2-0, but it was 1-1. The worse part was that Villareal's goal (and the absurd referee call) really affected Barcelona's game. Until the end of the first half, Barcelona couldn't play their usual dominating game and Villareal created a fair number of chances to score the second. Some luck (Iniesta was about to score an own goal) and a brilliant save by Victor Valdés prevented that from happening.
The half-time whistle came at the best possible time for Barcelona. After the break, the team settled their game and started dominating again, even if Villareal remained somewhat threatening on the break. In the 58th minute, a quick free kick from Xavi was sent to Messi, who played a quick one-two with Pedro before chipping past Diego Lopez with his trademark class. A fabulous finish by Lionel Messi gave Barcelona the lead.
The Camp Nou was enjoying Barcelona's fine football, and in the 84th minute the inevitable Lionel Messi scored his 19th goal in 16 matches this season, with a superb finish after another assist from Pedro.
In the end, Barcelona won 3-1, a fair result given Barcelona's good all round performance and one that made justice after the way Villareal equalized the match.
This result means that Barcelona are currently in first place in the league standings, at least until tomorrow's Gijon vs Real Madrid. If Real Madrid drop points at Gijon, Barcelona will take the first place for good. If not, it will probably have to wait until after the Classico.
The most important is that, after dropping five points in the first six matches, Barcelona have recorded five wins in a row. Next week, the blaugrana will travel to Almeria to try and keep their perfect away record, while their next home match is none other than the Classico on the 29th November.