An Antoine Griezmann brace gave Barcelona a 2-1 away win over Villarreal to lift the Catalans to within two points of Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga.
Diego Simeone’s pace-setters can re-establish their five-point advantage with a win over Athletic Club on Sunday evening, but Barca have shifted the pressure on to Atleti with this result at the Estadio de la Ceramica.
A chaotic start saw both sides create early opportunities to score with Villarreal breaking the deadlock when Samuel Chukwueze burst in behind, rounded Marc-Andre ter Stegen and finished from a tight angle.
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Barcelona’s response, however, was instant, with Griezmann lobbing a finish over Sergio Asenjo before completing the turnaround soon after, firing past the goalkeeper after pouncing on a loose Juan Foyth backpass.
Villarreal were reduced to 10 men after a reckless tackle by Manu Trigueros on Lionel Messi, with the Argentine fortunate not to suffer any damage. This robbed the hosts of their chance to press for an equaliser as Barcelona saw out a 15th win from their last 17 league games.
TALKING POINT - Lionel Messi lucky not to have suffered a serious injury
It was one of those moments that had everyone who watched the replay flinch. Trigueros didn’t intend to harm Messi, but the way he followed through in a tackle on the Argentine risked real damage to the Barcelona number 10. Had Messi planted his foot, he likely would have sustained a serious injury. This is where the rules regarding red card offences are there to protect players. Trigueros deserved to finish the match early. Messi will be grateful that the impact wasn’t any worse than just some stud marks on his shin.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona)
While he has suffered inconsistencies over the course of the season, it’s clear Koeman is getting more out of Griezmann. The French forward has hit a rich vein of form in recent weeks, scoring for the third successive match here. Griezmann turned this match around for Barcelona in the first half, clinically taking two opportunities as they came to him. In this sort of form, the 30-year-old could be a key factor as Barca chase Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga.
Villarreal - Asenjo 8, Foyth 3, Albiol 5, Pau 6, A. Moreno 5, Trigueros 3, Capoue 4, Parejo 5, Chukwueze 7, G. Moreno 6, Alcacer 5. Subs - Coquelin 5, Estupinan 6, Gomez 4, Gaspar 3, Pino.
Barcelona - Ter Stegen 5, Dest 4, Mingueza 7, Lenglet 7, Pique 6, Alba 6, Busquets 6, De Jong 6, Pedri 5, Messi 7, Griezmann 9. Subs - Roberto 6, Ilaix 6, Dembele 6, Araujo 4.
17’ HOW DID THAT STAY OUT?! My word! Incredible! The ball was played pretty much across the goal line by Alba, de Jong should have finished, but SOMEHOW Asenjo made the save! Wow!
27’ GOAL! Villarreal 1-0 Barcelona: Villarreal have taken the lead! Chukwueze was played in behind the Barcelona defence by Torres, the Catalans were too high up the pitch and the Nigerian forward skipped around ter Stegen and squeezed his finish into the back of the net!
28’ GOAL! Villarreal 1-1 Barcelona: Instant response from Barcelona who have equalised after a matter of seconds! Mingueza plays the pass in behind for Griezmann and the French forward finds the back of the Villarreal net with a chipped finish over the head of Asenjo!
35’ GOAL! Villarreal 1-2 Barcelona: A gift and Griezmann has a second! Foyth didn't spot the Frenchman as he played the backpass to Asenjo and he pounced, firing home! What a calamity for Villarreal who have allowed their lead to slip through their fingers!
67’ SENT OFF! It's a straight red card for Trigueros who followed through with a tackle into the ankle of Messi! He can have no complaints about that! An easy decision for the referee to make.
83’ De Jong chips wide! That probably should have been a third Barcelona goal! Messi played the ball to Dembele who found de Jong in the middle, but the Dutchman chips wide of the target!
Lionel Messi (32) and Gerard Moreno (24) are the only La Liga players to have been directly involved in more goals than Antoine Griezmann (22) in 2021 (all competitions).
Samuel Chukwueze has scored three goals in his last three games for Villarreal, as many as he had scored in the 60 games before that.
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