10 Dec Barca restore five-point lead at summit after beating Villarreal
Barcelona seized on the second-half dismissal of Dani Raba to beat Villarreal 2-0 and restore their five-point lead at the top of LaLiga on Sunday night.
Ernesto Valverde’s men had struggled to break down their opponents at the Estadio de la Ceramica until Raba’s dismissal on the hour for a foul on Sergio Busquets changed the course of the game.
Luis Suarez gave the visitors a 72nd-minute lead and Lionel Messi turned on the style with a brilliant second goal seven minutes from time to seal the points for the title favourites.
Tweet of the match
Star man – Lionel Messi
It has become almost routine to hand Messi the post-match plaudits but, at the end of a week in which he lost out on the Ballon d’Or to Cristiano Ronaldo, he once again illustrated his indispensable nature to the Barcelona cause by playing the pass that helped break the deadlock before sealing the points with a trademark piece of individual genius.
Moment of the match
For all the inspiration provided by Messi, it is hard to look past the sending-off of Villarreal’s Dani Raba for a foul on Sergio Busquets on the hour. At that point Villarreal looked just as likely to break the deadlock – but Barcelona ruthlessly exploited their one-man advantage to ease home in style in the final half-hour.
View from the bench
Villarreal coach Javier Calleja could be forgiven for looking over his shoulder after his side’s third LaLiga defeat in a row. Calleja’s predecessor Fran Escriba was dismissed after just six games of the season and, although Calleja can be credited with sparking a fine revival, there are signs it is grinding slowly to a halt. For Ernesto Valverde, victory was vindication of his squad rotation policy over the past week, and will restore faith in his ability to lead his side to another LaLiga title.
Villarreal: Sergio Asenjo 7, Mario Gaspar 6, Jaume Costa 6, Victor Ruiz 5, Alvaro Gonzalez 6, Ruben Samedo 7, Roberto Soriano 8, Manuel Trigueros 6, Rodri Hernandez 7, Cedric Bakambu 6, Dani Raba 6. Subs: Samu Castillejo (for Semedo, 48) 6, Antonio Rukavina (for Soriano, 64) 5.
Barcelona: Marc-Andre ter Stegen 7, Thomas Vermaelen 6, Gerard Pique 6, Jordi Alba 8, Ivan Rakitic 7, Paulinho 6, Sergio Busquets 7, Sergi Roberto 6, Denis Suarez 6, Lionel Messi 9, Luis Suarez 7. Subs: Paco Alcacer (for Denis Suarez, 58) 7, Aleix Vidal (for Paulinho, 68) 5, Andre Gomez (for Busquets, 86) 5.
Who’s up next?
Barcelona v Deportivo La Coruna (LaLiga, December 17)
Celta Vigo v Villarreal (LaLiga, December 17)