Barcelona have one hand on the title after securing a 1-0 win over Villarreal at El Madrigal despite fielding a weakened side. Pique’s goal was enough to seal it, and after Mourinho had his 9 year record broken, he admitted that the title race is all but over.
After the shock result over at the Bernabeu, all eyes were firmly on El Madrigal, as Barcelona had the chance to all but secure the league title with a win over the Yellow Submarine, Villarreal.
Guardiola obviously watched the Real Madrid game, as Messi started on the bench, alongside Bojan. This meant a line-up of Valdes, Alves, Pique, Busquets, Adriano, Thiago, Mascherano, Keita, Afellay, Villa and Iniesta was sent out to try and secure all three points.
The Blaugrana unsurprisingly dominated possession from the kick off but the first chance went to Villarreal and Giuseppe Rossi.
After a good ball in from Cazorla, Rossi was one-on-one with Valdes, but the captain for the night was not going to be beaten this early (4 minutes) and took the ball from the young Italians feet.
Barca tried to come into it, great skills by Thiago on 7 minutes showed us why he is rated so highly, but ultimately no chance was created. Villarreal however were creating. Rossi was yet again fed by Santi Cazorla and this time his shot was parried away by Valdes.
The next 20 minutes went without any significant occurrences, although Mascherano did pick up a knock, but was able to continue. Afellay played a good ball across the 6-yard line, but no-one could capitalise, and Barca went in at the half after only managing one shot on goal.
Messi, was surely going to be coming on.
I love being right, as Messi came on 5 minutes into the second half. Before this however, Iniesta had a shot and Villa did too. The Blaugrana tripling their shot count in 2 second half minutes!
The introduction of Messi changed the game, not that he was on top of his game, but Villarreal just seemed to lose focus. Barca continued their dominance of possession, but still no real chances, but then 20 minutes into the second half, a goal came from the most unlikely source.
A corner was sent in by Alves, and Piquenbauer chested it brilliantly before beating Diego Lopez with a fine volley. Barcelona were 1-0 up and as Mourinho himself admitted, the title race is over. I’m not too sure, but who am I to question the “Special One”?
After the goal, Messi and co. took full control and La Pulga himself was unlucky not to get on the score sheet with a free-kick, but for an impressive save by Lopez.
The game was not over though as Nilmar found himself in space in the penalty area. The goal beckoned as he swung his boot at the ball, but Valdes pulled off a spectacular save to preserve all three points.
The save of the season from any league, someone said in our live game thread, and it’s hard to argue.
The only thing left to happen was for Gonzalo to completely miss the ball in what should make every blooper reel for this season, and Villarreal were left to rue missed chances.
My man of the match award goes to Valdes. 3 vital saves, he could well have won us the title here today. Better than Iker? I think so. Credit also to Pique for the match-winner, Thiago for a very impressive 90 minutes and Jonathan, just for coming on!
Oh, and huge thanks to Preciado.