Barça. Villareal. La Ceramica.
Do we have to say any more?
Let’s see how Barca fared in this tricky environment.
Barca didn’t start this match well.
They were sliced open by Villareal’s attacking structure, which cut Barca’s midfield apart and led to more burden being placed on the back line. This then led to a number of chances for Villareal, most of them originating on the flanks where Barca was at their weakest (Sergi Roberto and Marcos Alonso).
In just the first 10 minutes alone, Villareal had 3 close scoring chances, the most dangerous of which would’ve been a goal if not for a very close offsides call that was confirmed by VAR. Another one led to an actual shot on goal, but it was Marc-Andre Ter Stegen who came to the rescue and denied the chance.
If Barca were to continue this form, then they’d be run out of the building sooner or later. That’s why some form of positivity was needed in the attack. To not only give Barca some short term comfort, but to also ease them a bit more into the match early on.
Luckily for them they got the positivity they needed. And it came from a but of an unlikely source.
Gavi opens the scoring
Barca opened the scoring by way of Gavi.
It was simple really, with Lamine Yamal delivering a wonderful cross into the 18 yard danger area. The ball sailed over every head until it found Gavi’s, whose effort was fired back across the far post.
It didn’t stop there though for Barca.
Just 3 minutes later, Barca found their second of the match, this time courtesy of a midfielder that has done everything possible to succeed at Barca. Despite all the past rumors swirling about his future.
De Jong makes it 2-0
This goal was a more fluid one for Barca.
A result of a trio of link up play between De Jong, Robert Lewandowski, and Ilkay Gundogan led to probably the most clear cut scoring opportunity of the first half for Barca.
De Jong gave it to Gundogan, who then gave it to Lewandowski, who then concluded the passing sequence by giving a wonderful back heel pass to the trailing De Jong, who was left with acres of space.
De Jong then took his time, fired his shot into the bottom left corner, and gave Barca a 2-0 lead against the run of play.
It seemed like Barca was settling into the match. All they had to do was control the match, avoid any significant mistakes, and they’d be walking out of La Ceramica with another set of 3 points.
But as you know, this club has some tendencies that make watching them a bit of a task at times. This time was no different, as Barca began a rapid decline, eventually leading to some big trouble.
Villareal comes all the way back
The Yellow Submarine weren’t going down without a fight.
They started by getting a goal back by way of Juan Foyth. His header rung off the inside of the left post, before finally sliding into the back of the net. At that point it was 2-1, but Barca had been in these situations before, so there wasn’t an extreme amount of anxiety.
But just before halftime stoppage time, Villareal did it again. This time it was a champagne football esque goal, with some lovely passing combinations and solid movement in Barca’s penalty area.
At this point it was clear, Barca was going to have to fight to win this match. Villareal wasn’t going to lay down, they were ready to take it to Barca and win by any means necessary.
But before Barca could even think about responding, halftime arrived.
With the score level at 2, Barca were fortunate. They could’ve been down by a goal or two, but luck was on their side. It was up to them to take advantage of that and somehow walk away with 3 points.
But again, Villareal didn’t make it easy at all.
Like the first half, Barca didn’t start the second half well either.
They started off by conceding a goal 10 minutes in, as it was Sergi Roberto’s bad defending and absence on the right flank that led to Villareal’s third goal of the match.
To be fair, it was a wonderful sequence and a wonderful finish by Baena. His far post shot confused Ter Stegen mightily, leaving the German stuck in the grass without even attempting to save the shot.
Fair play indeed.
But this moment sparked a bit of fire in Barca.
After this goal, Barca appeared more focused and efficient in the attack. Their passing combinations looked smoother and their movement looked much better. This all combined to make Barca’s third goal a reality.
At first it appeared they had scored via Lamine Yamal (more on him later), whose quick feet led to a near perfect right footed shot into the top right corner. The shot rang off the crossbar, but the danger sent a very loud and clear message
Ferran Torres shines again
The benefit of this increased level was none other than Ferran Torres.
Ferran’s best attribute was on display for this goal.
His movement in Villareal’s penalty area opened up some space for the Spaniard. He combined with Gavi, before firing off a shot that was eventually blocked. But the ball found Torres again, leading to a powerful shot that was sent into the back of the net.
The match was now level at 3.
But like Barca’s earlier 2 goal sequence, their second goal in the second half came in quick succession of the first.
Lewandowski with a classic poacher’s goal
The next goal wasn’t fantastic in quality, but it counted all the same nonetheless.
It started with Yamal again, who found the ball on the right flank. He cut back inside, dribbling and skipping into a very decent shooting area. His left footed shot rang off the post, but the ball fell to the wandering Lewandowski, who was perfectly positioned in front of an open goal.
Lewandowski then easily fired it into the back of the net to make it 4-3 Barca.
After this goal, all Barca had to do was control the game and attack when necessary. They had some scares, both in defense and attack, but the score line didn’t see a single change for the remainder of the match.
Barca had won 4-3, in this exciting back and forth battle.
Geez, what a match.
This was a match any neutral would’ve loved. Back and forth attacking phases, crucial plays made, and young prodigies making their mark. For Barca, they have to look in the mirror. Their defensive effort was very poor, more poor than usual. Yes, they were without Ronald Araujo and Alejandro Balde, but that doesn’t excuse the awful showing throughout the match.
Weak challenges, poor marking, poor defensive awareness, it was simply a disaster. They’re lucky they didn’t lose by a few goals, because it seemed that would be the case.
But there were some positives. Ferran Torres continued his great start to the season and Lamine Yamal…oh boy Lamine Yamal.
We’ve never seen a player this complete at such a young age in quite a while. Yes, not even Ansu Fati was this complete at 16.
You can only hope Barca manages his load over this long season, but it’s hard to not get excited by the quality we’ve seen so far. All in all, there were some ups and downs, but the ups reign supreme this time around.
Barca’s next match
Barca’s next match will be next Sunday against Osasuna.
See you all then!