Messi and Víctor Ruiz / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB.

A late goal from B team youngster Sandro gave Barça the three points at El Madrigal in a hard fought game that Luis Enrique’s side dominated, though they found it tough going at times against a determined Villarreal defence.

Messi leads from the start

From the off, Leo Messi, wearing the captain’s armband in Iniesta’s absence, again looked sharp as he combined well down the right with Dani Alves and the Argentinean and Pedro had the best of the early chances, as Villarreal were forced into some desperate defending. It was Villarreal’s Victor Ruiz who had the half’s best opportunity though, when with an open goal at the back post from a corner, he somehow put the ball wide on 24 minutes. Messi continued to provide the threat for Barça and it took a reflex save from Asenjo to keep out his deflected free kick minutes later. Luis Enrique’s side were having plenty of ball and continued to probe, but as the half time whistle blew, the game remained goalless.

Late winner from Sandro

It looked only a matter of time before the boss called on his bench and on the hour Neymar was sent on, as the game began to open up. Before that, Mathieu had a fright when he deflected a cross onto the post, with Villarreal beginning to attack more. Although Neymar lifted the pace for Barça, it was Luis Enrique’s next sub, Sandro, who finally broke the deadlock, when he poked home from close after Messi had wriggled into the area on the right to get his first league goal and ensure Barça go into the international break with two league wins out of two.

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