Lionel Messi free-kick rescues draw for Barcelona
La Liga, Estadio de la Ceramica - Villarreal 1 (Sansone 50) Barcelona 1 (Messi 90)
Lionel Messi scored a stunning stoppage time equaliser to salvage a 1-1 draw for Barcelona, although the Catalans will reflect on two dropped points against Villarreal.
The Yellow Submarine looked on course for all three points having taken the lead through Nicola Sansone, with the Italian finding the far corner of the Barca net following a rapid counter attack led by the impressive Alexandre Pato.
Villarreal's Nicola Sansone celebrates a goal.Reuters
But the hosts’ defensive resolve was finally ground down with just seconds of normal time left to play at El Madrigal as Messi curled an astonishing freekick into the top corner of Sergio Asenjo’s net.
It was the least the Catalans deserved having dominated much of the contest and passing up a number of opportunities in front of goal. Nonetheless, Villarreal put on a strong defensive display and proved a high enough hurdle for Barcelona to stumble over.
Is the Spanish title race over? While Messi’s late goal salvaged a point for Barcelona the draw at El Madrigal it does still mean Real Madrid now have a five-point lead at the top of La Liga, with an additional game in hand. Consider that Zinedine Zidane’s side haven’t lost in their last 39 games and it seems unlikely that Real will suffer such a collapse between now and the end of the season. So is the title race over?
Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (L) vies with Villarreal's midfielder Bruno Soriano during the Spanish league football match Villarreal CF vs FC Barcelona at El Madrigal stadium in Vila-real on January 8, 2017.AFP
MAN OF THE MATCH
Alexandre Pato (Villarreal). Written off at Chelsea, Pato has revived his career at Villarreal this season. The Brazilian gave Barcelona plenty to think about throughout the match and set up the game-winner for Sansone with a perfectly weighted pass through. Pato was something of a figure of fun in the Premier League but in Spain he is once again a force to be reckoned with.
Villarreal's Brazilian forward Alexandre Rodrigues "Pato" (L) vies withBarcelona's midfielder Sergi Roberto during the Spanish league football match Villarreal CF vs FC Barcelona at El Madrigal stadium in Vila-real on January 8, 2017.AFP
34’ BIG CHANCE FOR NEYMAR! Suarez does really well to get to the byline and square for his teammate, but after getting in front of his marker Neymar's finish was poor and blocked.
49’ GOAL! Villarreal 1-0 Barcelona: The home side have the opener! Villarreal counter attack at pace with Pato slotting a perfect pass through to Sansone who finds the bottom corner of the Barca net.
75’ THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN A PENALTY! Barcelona's players are furious. Messi's shot is actually saved by the arm of Bruno, deflecting it up and over the bar, but the referee failed to spot it.
76’ MESSI HITS THE POST! That's as close as you can come without finding the back of the net. Messi aims a left footed shot towards goal, striking the inside of the woodwork.
77’ VILLARREAL PENALTY SHOUT! Now it's the home side who are looking to the referee. They believe Mascherano handled the ball inside the area, and they are right. That was a penalty too.
84’ ANOTHER PENALTY SHOUT! Bruno falls on the ball inside the area and.. yup, that probably should have been a spot kick. Clear handball. Villarreal have got away with another one.
90’ GOAL! Villarreal 1-1 Barcelona: What a sensational goal and how Barcelona needed that! Messi finds the very top corner of the net with a wonderful freekick from the edge of the box.
94’ RED CARD! Jaume Costa (Villarreal). The referee shows Costa a second yellow card. He is furious with the decision, but the home side will play the final few moments with 10 men.
Barcelona have hit the woodwork more often than any other side in La Liga this season (11).
Nicola Sansone has the best shot conversion rate in La Liga this season (35%).