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Barça maintained their 100% record at the Camp Nou this season with a 2-1 victory over Villarreal on Tuesday night. But although two early goals may have had some expecting a walk in the park the Catalans instead ended up grinding out a win against a Yellow Submarine that refused to be sunk too easily.
The first of the two goals came after just five minutes when Antoine Griezmann rose to nod a perfectly executed Leo Messi corner into the net.
And the second came from nowhere. Arthur Melo was lurking on the edge of the area. We would usually expect the Brazilian to tee up a team-mate with one of his typically classy passes. But not this time. To everyone’s surprise, he opted to have a crack himself. And what strike it was.
Wham, bam, and Barça were two goals to the good.
It was up to Villarreal to make a match of it, but they brought very little to the game until the edge of half-time. It was then that Santi Cazorla belted one in from medium range. All of a sudden, the visitors were back in it.
There were further alarm bells when Messi, who had needed treatment on his thigh, didn’t come out for the second half.
Hiis replacement, Ousmane Dembélé had an immediate impact and both Griezmann and Luis Suárez would like to have done better with the Frenchman’s deliveries.
Frenkie de Jong and Ansu Fati were also sent on as second half subs, and both also made a marked difference to the tempo, the newly naturalised Spaniard almost scoring with his first two interventions.
But much as Barça pressed, what the locals call the ‘goal of tranquillity’ just didn’t want to come. And as the minutes ticked by, there was a very real possibility that an increasingly more proactive Villarreal could steal an equaliser.
The Camp Nou breathed a huge collective sigh of relief when the final whistle blew. Three points in the bag, and Barça very much back open for business.