Photo taken by: J.J. Guillen/EPA

La Liga: Round 17

Photo taken by: REUTERS/Heino Kalis
Photo taken by: REUTERS/Heino Kalis

Villarreal CF 1-1 FC Barcelona


Villarreal CF: Asenjo; Mario, Musacchio, Ruiz, Costa; Bruno, Trigueros, Soriano, Dos Santos; Sansone, Pato. (4-4-2)

FC Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Piqué, Mascherano, Digne; Busquets, Gomes, Iniesta; Messi, Suárez, Neymar. (4-3-3)

Villarreal CF and FC Barcelona also came to this game with the necessity of a victory. Both teams lost their respective Copa del Rey games during the week. But Barcelona had more in play because Real Madrid and Sevilla won their games. Something that put them in third place in the table.

It was a game of contrasts in terms of tactical systems, but not in substances or intentions. Both teams proposed very offensive-minded game plans since the beginning of the game. Barcelona, as always, took control of the possession of the ball and advanced their backline and midfield line to maintain Villarreal locked inside their box. The passing game was fluent and symphonic. The trio composed by Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta and Neymar Jr. had a great connection to take over the offense through triangulations and constant mobility on the edge of the rivals’ box.

But Villarreal compact block knew how to respond to that offensive threat. A 4-4-2 lineup that took advantage of the lack of pace by Barcelona fullbacks to defend on transition. Alexandre Pato, Jonathan Dos Santos and Nicola Sansone exploited the wings perfectly on the counterattacks. Pato was the most crucial player during the first half. He constantly put high pressure on Sergi Roberto, Javier Mascherano and Gerard Piqué when they had the ball.

Four minutes into the second half, Villarreal created a fantastic counter-attack through Pato’s feet. He used his patience and great pace to run the ball while being marked by three defenders and find Sansone, who approached the big gap left by Lucas Digne on the right wing. He made a great definition and put even more pressure on Barça players’ shoulders.

Even tough Barcelona was loosing the game, they never lost their pace on offense. Messi, Iniesta and Neymar continued their show but could not break the Yellow Submarine’s wall. Both the body and ball movement were constant. The only gray point in the game was the referee controversy. When the referee did not called for a penalty in neither of the three straight handballs — two by Roberto Soriano, one by Mascherano.

It was up until the 89th minute, when Messi saved the game for his team. This time was a fantastic free kick that tie the game. Now Barcelona and Villarreal are in third and fifth place respectively in the table.

About Jose Sanchez

Journalism student at the University of Florida. Venezuelan and future sports journalist.

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