Barcelona continue on track to fight for the La Liga title thanks to a hard-fought 2-1 win over Villarreal at the Estadio de La Cerámica on Sunday. Barça played a brilliant first half despite going behind early, but an Antoine Griezmann brace gave them the lead and the Blaugrana survived a tough second half to pick up all three points.
Barça dominated from the go, sending plenty of bodies forward and moving the ball quickly and creatively to create plenty of chances. There were four big ones in the first 18 minutes, the biggest of those a brilliant team move that ended with an assist from Jordi Alba and a bad miss from Frenkie De Jong, who was all alone just two yards away from the goal but hit the ball straight at Sergio Asenjo.
After 20 brilliant minutes, Barça allowed Villarreal to have some of the ball and after a great pass from Pau Torres, Samuel Chukwueze took advantage of a slip from Alba to enter the box, round Marc-André ter Stegen and score a very good goal to give the Yellow Submarine the lead completely against the run of play.
Thankfully for Barça they gave the home team zero time to sit on their lead as Óscar Mingueza played a great ball over the top and Antoine Griezmann lobbed Asenjo for the equalizer, just 90 seconds after Chukwueze’s goal. Seven minutes after that, Griezmann was in the right place at the right time and received a gift from Juan Foyth who tried a back pass but gave Griezmann a golden chance and the Frenchman didn’t waste it.
At halftime, a high-level game had Barça in good shape but Villarreal were still in it ahead of what was expected to be a great second half.
Villarreal came out very strong in the second half, pushing men forward and pressing higher up the pitch, and Barça were a little too open for a team with the lead on the road. The home team had a few very dangerous moments in and around the box, and although there wasn’t a true chance it felt like they could equalize at any moment.
Then Manu Trigueros was given a straight red card for a bad tackle on Lionel Messi, and things began to feel a little less complicated for Barça as Villarreal looked tired an stretched headed into the final 15 minutes.
The home team still didn’t give up and continued attacking which left them vulnerable to the counter, and De Jong had another golden chance in one of those counters but tried to lob the keeper from the edge of the box and wasted a chance that could have been costly.
Despite a few scares in stoppage time, Barça survived the second half and the final whistle came to give them three huge points in what was as tough a game as expected.
Villarreal: Asenjo; Foyth, Albiol (Mario 89’), Torres, Moreno (Estupiñán 60’); Chukwueze (Pino 89’), Capoue (Gómez 76’), Parejo, Trigueros; Gerard, Alcácer (Coquelin 60’)
Goal: Chukwueze (26’)
Red Card: Trigueros (65’)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Mingueza, Piqué, Lenglet; Dest (Roberto 46’), De Jong, Busquets (Araujo 88’), Pedri (Ilaix 64’), Alba; Messi, Griezmann (Dembélé 80’)
Goals: Griezmann (28’, 35’)