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There is only one thing that FC Barcelona can do between now and the end of the Liga season, and that’s keep winning games to put the pressure on Real Madrid, who may be second in the table but do still have a game in hand.
Fifth-placed Villarreal were always going to be a tricky opponent, and that did indeed prove to be the case. But after some intensely tight opening minutes, the home side produced the magic in front of over 90,000 fans and spurred by the trident, with a majestic Neymar Jr, ended up romping home to a 4-1 win.
Goals at each end
But despite the must-win nature of the game, the Catalans stuck to their ways and went into the game with calm composure. Practically nothing of note happened in a frankly dull first twenty minutes, but for all that time there were blaugrana shirts hovering patiently around the Villarreal area waiting for their moment.
That moment came after 21 minutes, when the MSN unleashed a counter-attack that was culminated by a Leo Messi assist for Neymar Jr to tap home. The Brazilian’s love affair with goals against the Yellow Submarine continues!
The visitors, hungry for points to boost their chase for European places, reacted strongly. The dangers of in-form Cédric Bakambu had been stressed before the match. And ten minutes after his side had gone behind, it was the Congolese striker who broke solo from the halfway line to tuck the ball past Ter Stegen. We were back to where we started.
Messi makes 50
Barça had a fine chance to regain the lead when Gerard Piqué headed wide from point blank range and moments later Roberto Soldado did likewise at the other end. There was nothing dull about this game now, and either side could have been 2-1 up at half-time.
Just when it looked like neither side would be having that honour … up stepped Messi. The Argentinian jigged on the edge of the area until he spotted the gap he needed to fire a deflected ball into the back of the net – leaving a bewildered Villarreal keeper Andrés Fernández to wonder how on earth it had got there. Happy days at the Camp Nou – that’s 100 goals for the trident this season, 50 of those scored by Messi!
On 68 minutes, the other member of the tremendous threesome joined the goalscoring party. Sergi Roberto’s powering run was reminiscent of his unforgettable one against PSG, and Luis Suárez finished the move with all the composure in the world, beating two men before converting from an angle.
Villarreal were proving a more than dignified rival, but when the FCB front three are in this kind of form, there’s not much a team can do. On 81 minutes, Barça made it four, this time from the penalty spot as Messi cheekily chipped home ‘a la Panenka’. And that truly was game over.
The three points mean Barça will be spending another week at the top of the league table. And although Madrid are still in the driving seat thanks to their additional fixture, they will be very aware that on the back on this 4-1 win, the blaugrana are staring right over their shoulders! There’s an gripping fortnight of football in store!
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