With Atlético Madrid losing on Saturday night, Barcelona headed to the East of Spain looking to further distance themselves at the top of the table. But it would be no easy feat as a trip to El Madrigal is arguably the hardest away game outside of Madrid.
|Shots on Target||6||6|
The game started and it was the hosts who were immediately on top. They quickly broke down the left wing and crossed to ex-Barça player Denis Suárez. The 22 year old got a good header away which beat Claudio Bravo but struck the post. Regardless, with all this happening in the opening minute, it showed Villarreal's intent to attack Barça.
After the initial flurry in the opening stages, Barcelona managed to get ahold of the ball and slow the tempo. The decreased speed suited Barça as it allowed them to keep possession and quieten the crowd. When they did lose the ball, they were also quick to win it back in particular during the tenth minute when Ivan Rakitić regained possession just outside of the Villarreal box. The Croatian then curled an effort just past the post.
The game was beginning to be dictated by referee Jose Maria Sanchez Martinez and his desire to produce yellow cards whenever possible. Arda Turan was cautioned for his first foul of the game and Gerard Piqué was deemed to have deliberately handled and received the yellow.
Coming up to the 20th minute, Barça were awarded a free kick and Lionel Messi stepped up to take it. The set piece was too far for a direct shot at goal so the Argentine lifted the ball towards the head of Luis Suárez. The ball was cleared before reaching Suárez but fell kindly to Rakitić. The midfielder slotted the ball into the open net and gave Barça the lead.
Still reeling from the disappointment of the opening goal, things were made worse for Villarreal as their manager Marcelino was sent to the stands. Sitting in his hospitality box, surrounded by pandillas, Marcelino was surely only getting angrier after seeing some more bizarre decisions from Martinez.
There was a possible shout for a red card as Piqué slid to the ball, missed it and landed on top of it with both hands. The defender seemed unaware of where the ball was and a second yellow would've been harsh but you suspect had he not already been booked, he would've been then.
With half time approaching, the home crowd was incensed as Martinez again made an incorrect call. Neymar was played through and Sergio Asenjo came out to meet him. The keeper slid and reached over with his hand and tapped the ball away. On the way there, he caught Neymar causing the Brazilian to tumble over but it looked to be a great save as he had made solid contact with the ball. However, the referee disagreed and pointed to the spot. Even Neymar looked bemused by the decision but he was to be the one to take the spot-kick. After a jilted run up, he chipped the ball into the centre of the net to make it 2-0 to the visitors.
The halftime whistle blew with the Catalans two goals to the good but it was the referee making all the headlines.
The second period began and perhaps with the Clásico in mind, Luis Enrique elected to swap out both Piqué and Turan for Jérémy Mathieu and Dani Alves. The substitutions seemed to have an adverse effect on the team as Viallrreal were immediately on top.
Within the same minute Turan left the field, Villarreal had got a goal back. Denis Suárez was wrestling Javier Mascherano on his way into the box before firing a shot low at the goal. Bravo palmed it away but it fell to Cédric Bakambu who had time and space to roll the ball into an open net. The goal lifted the home crowd and they sensed there was a way back into this.
Just five minutes after their first goal, and the crowd was right to believe as Villarreal were back on level terms. A corner was flicked on by Roberto Soldado and hit Mathieu before flying into the net. The hosts had equalised and it was the first time since December that Barça had conceded two goals.
After Villarreal's intense ten minute spell, Barça again mangled to regain the ball and slow the tempo. The home team retreated deeper and allowed Barça possession around the half way line. There was also a lack of intensity in Barcelona's quest for a winner. They retained the ball without finding any real cutting edge to their attack. Luis Suárez had enjoyed little effectiveness throughout the match and Neymar was on occasion being let down by his touch.
The game finished at 2-2 which was fair result for both teams. Despite the disappointment of letting a two goal lead slip, Barça can still be happy that they kept their unbeaten streak and increased their lead at the top of the table by a point.
|Roll Call Info|
|Commenter list||Adi93, Ajmain faieq, Anders Thomassen, AngusLB, Anirudh_Kul, Ashraf Arefin, AzBlaug, Barca4ever, BarcaGH, Delano Heerkens, Eddie Pundell, Iniesta08, JordanBelfort, JordiBalboa, Korosensei, LetsBeReal_MadridSucks, LocoZZZ, Munir4b'dor, My Name Is Dennis, Naman_Mehra, NamesTroyResideInTheDMV, Rajesh1101s, Richzorz, SF49forLife, ShantanuC, Som-i-Serem, Steven Cordero, Swn.Culé, Tokjee, VarmaFCB, Vikiadi27, Willis1984, asherdgreat1, avyator, brodiebomber, chrisolin65, craig00000, dewoul, el_uruguayo, feeya7, godnkls, gorgton, ilinkps, knorkinator, kuni95, navjot4664, siempre_riquelme, syredeathtrooper, viralvariance|
|32||My Name Is Dennis||2|