Thursday, March 30, 2017

Villarreal 1-1 Barcelona: Leo Messi’s last-minute free-kick rescues a point for the Catalans

Milos Markovic in Editorial, La Liga 8 Jan 2017

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Barca’s saviour / Image via belfasttelegraph.co.uk

 

Villarreal will rue the missed opportunity at their newly-named stadium tonight, as they allow Barcelona to salvage a late point when Leo Messi struck a 90th-minute free kick to wrap up a pulsating match between two attack-oriented sides.

Our in-depth match report follows:

Form Guide & Team News

It wasn’t the best of starts to the new year 2017 for both Villarreal and Barcelona, who suffered respective defeats to Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao on the Copa del Rey midway through last week.

Villarreal went one step back to the end of 2016, which they finished with a 1-1 Copa del Rey draw against Toledo. Fran Escriba’s men suffered a 3-1 defeat at Real Sociedad and will have a mountain to climb in the second leg if they are to progress in the eighth-finals. Switching their focus back to La Liga, the Yellow Submarine headed into the Barcelona clash on the back of back-to-back victories and were hoping for a win at the beginning of 2017 to make a break into the top four.

Barcelona’s defeat to Athletic Bilbao signaled an end to a 11-match unbeaten run, which lasted ever since November 2016 and their loss at Manchester City. Luis Enrique’s men found it imperative to find a win at the newly named Estadio de la Ceramica and make a swift return to winning ways. The Catalans have fallen six points behind La Liga leaders Real Madrid and staying within the touching distance was all they cared about.

Cedric Bakambu was missing for the hosts due to the Africa Cup of nation responsibilities, whereas Soldado and Cheryshev are both injured. The Catalans travelled to Villarreal without goalkeeper Cillessen and defender Mathieu who struggled with calf and muscle injuries, respectively. Croatia midfielder Rakitic was also missing for visitors tonight, but the club insist it had nothing to do with growing rumours of his reported transfer to Manchester City.

First Half

It turned out to be a frustrating 45 minutes for Barcelona at Villarreal. The Catalans dominated possession getting the most out of the shots towards the goal, but the nets remained still and Barcelona ended up finishing the fifth of their last six La Liga matched goalless at half time.

Perhaps it may just be a piece of statistics but it is largely indicative to reveal all the struggles Luis Enrique’s men have gone through in the Spanish championship this term.

Overall it turned out to be quite an eventful half since the home side refused to back down under the challenge, creating the chances of their own. Jonathan dos Santos could have taken his team upfront after only ten minutes when he squandered a big chance from inside the box, sending the box flying over the bar.

The same player missed another great chance only a couple of minutes later when he fired an inch-perfect cross inside the box well over the bar.

The visitors created the chances of their own through Neymar and Messi, who both wasted brilliant opportunities to score toward the end of the period. Villarreal goalkeeper Asenjo did his fair share of help by producing great saves to deny Barca’s advances and lead his team to halftime with the deadlock unbroken.

Second Half

Barcelona’s dominance came to nothing straight into the second half as it took only five minutes for the home side to take a lead and stun the Catalan side.

Brazilian Pato played Nicola Sansone with a lovely through ball, with the Villarreal man showing great determination and concentration to fire the ball into the bottom left corner despite the great pressure from Barcelona defenders.

Frustrated Catanals stepped up their efforts to return into the game, but the visitors’ advances were futile for the good part of the game. Leo Messi struck a post after 73 minutes when he decided to surprise the Villarreal shot stopper with a quick shot, only to find his kick bounce back off the left post.

Barcelona were denied a penalty when Bruno handled a shot from Leo Messi, but the Argentine wizard stepped up the plate however to save his side in the dying moments of the game with a brilliant free-kick goal.

Frustrated by the fact they’ve conceded in the 90th minute, Villarreal ended the game with ten players on the pitch as Jaume Costa saw a second yellow after hacking Messi down with what would have been a great chance for the Catalans.

In the end, a frustrating draw for both sides and most notably Barcelona who are now trailing Real Madrid by five points. Los Blancos, however, have a game in hand.

Statistical Overview

  • Barcelona dominated possession with 70% to Villarreal’s 30%
  • The Catalans fail to win their second game in a row
  • The visitors made 20 goal attempts to Villarreal’s 6
  • Luis Enrique’s men remain in third place on the standings
  • Villarreal missed the chance to beat Barca for the first time since 2007

VILLARREAL: Asenjo 6.5 – Mario Gaspar 6.5, Musachio 6 (Alvaro 6), Ruiz 6.5, Costa 5 – dos Santos 7, Trigueros 6.5, Bruno 7, Soriano 6 (Hernandez 6) – Sansone 7, Pato 7 (Castillejo 6.5)

Unused subs: Borre, Fernandez, N’Diaye, Rukavina

BARCELONA: ter Stegen 6.5 – Roberto 6.5, Pique 6, Mascherano 6.5, Digne 6.5 (Turan) – Gomes 6.5, Busquets 7, Iniesta 7 – Messi 7.5, Suarez 6.5, Neymar 6.5

Unused Subs: Alba, Rafinha, Nasip, Paco, Umtiti

REFEREE: Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva

Other results today

Athletic Bilbao 0-0 Alaves

Betis 2-0 Leganes

Celta Vigo 3-1 Malaga

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Milos Markovic


Formerly a Chief Editor at the largest sports site in Serbia Sportske.net, Milos Markovic is an avid football writer who contributes to a variety of online football magazines - most prominently Soccernews.com and Futbolgrad.com. His feature articles, editorials, interviews and match analyses have provided informed opinion and views, helping the football aficionados keep up to date on relevant events in world football.

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