Villarreal vs Barcelona
Villarreal should be fighting for UEFA Champions League places, but they find themselves 11th on the La Liga table as they struggle to score. They will blame the absence of talisman Gerard Moreno, but they have created good chances in his absence, and they only need to be more clinical. The yellow submarines have only scored a measly 15 goals in La Liga this campaign. Villarreal made only one change from their loss to Manchester United with Alfonso Pedraza replacing Pervis Estupiñán.
Barcelona made two changes from their midweek UEFA Champions League draw against Benfica. Abde Ezzalzouli replaced Yusuf Demir while Eric Garcia replaced Clément Lenglet in the lineup. The Catalans have struggled to score despite creating big chances. They have only scored in two away ties this season. Memphis Depay has had to deputize as a center-forward recently and has been guilty of missing good chances. New coach Xavi was coaching his second La Liga game and hoping his band of youngsters can find their finishing boots. Maybe then they can push up from 8th on the table.
Abde Ezzalzouli beat Alfonso Pedraza before winning a corner. From the corner, the youngster headed well and forced a great save from Gerónimo Rulli. A minute later, Eric Garcia, playing as a makeshift right-back, gave the ball away to Arnaut Danjuma, and the Dutch winger should have scored, but he allowed Gerard Pique to recover and make the block. The ball hit Pique’s hand on the ground pissing Unai Emery off. He was even more pissed when Étienne Capoue lost the ball, and it ended up with Memphis Depay. The Dutch captain should also have scored, but he fired wide.
Gavi had the next chance to score after a great holdup play for Depay and the Spanish international hit the post. On 18, Frenkie De Jong slipped in Depay, and he missed the target again with only the keeper to beat. Both sides were looking nervy on the ball, but Villareal looked worse. Barcelona’s heavy press was making it difficult for Capoue and Dani Parejo to get on the ball. Youngster Abde was causing Pedraza all sorts of problems with his direct dribbling.
On 26, Yeremy Pino headed over from a well-worked corner routine involving Pau Torres. Three minutes later, Danjuma missed the target after Manuel Trigueros slipped him in. He would have been offside. Pau Torres was the next to miss a glorious chance when he headed over from 8 yards following a corner. Villarreal had taken control of the game after the Barcelona press withered. On 38, Torres found Danjuma behind the Barca defense with a beautiful pass, but Marc-André ter Stegen stood strong, and saved. Surprisingly, after 45 minutes, the score stood at Villarreal 0-0 Barcelona.
Barcelona had the ball in the net immediately after resumption. Abde overhit a cross, and it came to Jordi Alba who drove it back across the goal. Depay poked it at Rulli, but the rebound fell to De Jong who scored into an empty net. Villarreal 0-1 Barcelona.
Earlier this week, Gavi finished in the top 5 at the Golden Boy award and showed why on 54. He worked hard to win the ball, and Barcelona shifted the ball for De Jong. The Dutch midfielder gave it to Depay who fired a tame shot that Ruli repelled with his right leg. Danjuma scraped another shot wide. On 63, Moi Gomez should have done better when Pino gave him a good ball to shoot. He skewed his shot into the path of Danjuma who could only force a corner. From that corner, Eric Garcia brought a Raul Albiol down UFC style. VAR somehow overlooked it.
On 75, Samuel Chukwueze (who replaced Pino) got the better of Oscar Mingueza (who replaced Jordi Alba) and set up Trigueros, but the midfielder fired over the bar. Three minutes later, Villarreal got their equalizer. Trigueros won the ball from a Barca throw-in and shifted the ball to Danjuma. He moved it sharply to Samuel Chukwueze who poked it in. Villarreal 1-1 Barcelona.
Villarreal smelled blood, and they came swarming. Further chaotic tactics saw Mingueza at left-back, Ousmane Dembele at right-back, and Eric Garcia was playing a free role at the back. Trigueros poked an outside-of-the-boot shot wide, and then Danjuma missed again from a promising position. At this point, it looked like Villarreal would snatch the win, but in typical Unai Emery/Villarreal fashion, they snatched a loss from the jaws of victory. With only a few minutes to the end of the game, ter Stegen lofted a long ball, and Pervis Estupiñán catastrophically headed the ball into the path of Depay who rounded Rulli before scoring. His 8th goal for Barcelona. Villarreal 1-2 Barcelona.
Villarreal then gave away a penalty when Philippe Coutinho was brought down. He scored his penalty. Villarreal 1-3 Barcelona. It ended that way with Coutinho hitting an overhead kick over the bar. Barcelona earns their first away win in La Liga. Villarreal is now closer to the relegation zone than they are top the top of La Liga. They are 5 points away from the drop zone.