Barcelona were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw at Villarreal, as Luis Enrique’s side dropped to third place in the La Liga
Lionel Messi scored a stunning free-kick in the 89th minute to level the scores, after all hope looked lost for Barcelona. Luis Enrique’s men seemed destined to lose the game after being repelled by Villarreal time and time again, but the Argentinian wizard was on hand to rescue a point for Barcelona.
Jaume Costa was sent off in stoppage time for his second yellow card, but Barcelona could not capitalise on the advantage as there was not enough time. There was plenty of controversy as well, as Barcelona were denied a penalty twice after two clear handballs by Villarreal players inside the penalty area.
Messi’s brilliance stands out again
Lionel Messi put in an imperious performance last night, and went some way to cementing his legacy as one of the greatest – if not the greatest – players ever. Messi created a ridiculous 6 chances for his team, completed 3 take-ons and scored the all important equaliser for his side.
The goal itself was a thing of absolute beauty. Messi went for the side close to Villarreal’s goalkeeper and quite simply nailed it. The free-kick was perfection, with pin-point accuracy and immaculate placement, and although Messi wrong-footed the goalkeeper, it is hard to imagine him ever having a chance of saving a free-kick of such quality.
only 8 days into 2017 and Messi scores his 2nd free kick goal!!! 👽pic.twitter.com/475PZ1xvY8
— FBL ⚽️ (@FOOTBALRLIFE) January 8, 2017
Rakitic looks certain to leave
Ivan Rakitic was left out of Barcelona’s squad entirely for the match, with reports that he is Manchester City-bound ever increasing. Pep Guardiola is reportedly looking for a replacement for Ilkay Gundogan, who will miss the rest of the campaign and will definitely take time to get back to full fitness at the start of the next one.
Rakitic was missed last night as Barcelona struggled in the middle of the park, and his fall from grace at Barcelona has been a quick and surprising one. Enrique has been criticised for not utilising the Croatian international more, and should Rakitic leave he will definitely be missed by fans and players alike.
Neymar’s goal drought continues
Neymar has been an unequivocal success at Barcelona but his goal drought this season is sure to concern fans. He has not scored a goal since his goal against Manchester City in the Champions League on October 19th, and his last goal in the La Liga came on October 2nd. Neymar has cut a frustrated figure in recent times and needs a goal desperately.
He has not looked at his confident best and was certainly off his game last night. It is only a matter of time until he ends his goal drought, but the lack of confidence as a result of it is quickly beginning to show. Luis Enrique backed his striker after the game, but the performances need to improve, and soon.
Referee got it wrong
Referee Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva came in for heavy criticism after the game, and a lot of it was justified. Barcelona were twice denied two clear handballs, and Gerard Pique was visibly furious with the officials once again. Any talk of bias is clearly reactionary and misplaced, by the referee’s performance last night was deplorable.
Barcelona fans and players were infuriated by the performance and they have reason to be frustrated after they potentially lost more ground in the title race. Referees have been accused of favouring Barcelona in the past, but luck was not on their side last night.
Luis Enrique under increasing pressure
Despite Enrique’s insistence that Barcelona deserved to win the game, the Catalans should definitely be performing a lot better given the talent at their disposal. The fact that they had to rely on Lionel Messi’s individual brilliance once again despite boasting Luis Suarez and Neymar in attack is simply not good enough.
Enrique is now facing increasing pressure as a result of Barca’s lackluster performances, and talk of him being let go by the club is growing. Memories are short in football at times, and despite his great success with Barcelona the Spaniard needs to turn things around soon, or the environment could quickly turn hostile.