Messi Match-Winner against Villarreal Closes Gap at the Top

Bacelona twice came back from behind to beat Villarreal 3-2 and move back to within point of Real Madrid in the Spanish La Liga table on Sunday.

Denis Cheryshev provided Villarreal with an opener after half hour of action against the run of play, but with the visitors headed for a 1-0 half-time lead, the in-form Neymar leveled for Luis Enrique’s men.

The second half started on a high note yielding three goals in the space on four minutes, with Luciano Vietto restoring Villarreal’s advantage only for Rafinha to draw Barca level before Lionel Messi’s 54th minute match-winner from the edge of the area.

“It was a very important match for me,” Brazilian midfielder, Rafinha, said.

Lione Messi and Neymar Celebrate Barcelona Match Winner Against Villarreal. Image: Getty.
Lione Messi and Neymar Celebrate Barcelona Match Winner Against Villarreal. Image: Getty.

The 21-year-old told Canal+: “We knew it was going to be tough because they arrived in good form, but luckily we equalized soon after they scored and then we got the third. With the three (Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez) in attack anything possible.”

Leaders Real can regain their four point gap at the top when they host Sevilla in their outstanding game on Wednesday. However, the Cam Nou outfit have secured a 3-point lead over champions Atletico Madrid with their eighth straight win.

For Villarreal, it was their first defeat in 19 games and leaves them four points adrift of Sevilla, who also came from behind to win Espanyol on Sunday, in the race for the final Uefa Champions League’s spot.

Barcelona started well on Sunday but struggled to dominate the scoreline as Suarez twice blew his chances off.

The Catalans were then punished for the Uruguayan’s lack of precision when Villarreal pulled ahead and Mario Gaspar’s wayward effort was deflected beyond Claudio Bravo by Real Madrid loanee Cheryshev.

Barcelona were back in the game in the 44th minute when Neymar scored his 22nd goal of the season from Asenjo’s rebound of Rafinha’s curling effort.

Villarreal made the most of an early opportunity in the second half to claim the lead once more as former Barcelona man Giovani dos Santos broke free behind the hosts’ defence and centred a pass for Vietto to finish off with a simple tap in.

The lead lasted for only two minutes as Suarez sent a pass to Messi, whose delightful header was blocked, and Rafinha pounced on the loose ball to blast home from close range.

The goal turned the game on its head and Barca were soon up by the Argentine superstar’s goal, smashing high above Asenjo from outside of the area from Suarez’s assist.

Villarreal continued to press for an equaliser and thought they had salvaged one when Mateo Mausacchio thumped home from close range only to be denied by an offside flag. Barca immediately countered from the resulting free-kick and only cried wolf when Neymar was hacked down by Asenjo in the goal area.

Suarez could have doubled their lead but failed to turn Dani Alves’s cross on target.


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