Barcelona continued their title celebrations in fine fashion as they cruised to a 5-1 win over Villarreal at Camp Nou on Wednesday.
The hosts were quickly off the blocks as Philippe Coutinho tapped in the opening goal just ten minutes in as he converted from a rebound after Ousmane Dembele’s long-range effort was parried into his path. Barcelona were soon two to the good as Paulinho scored from close range this time, tapping the ball into an empty net from Lucas Digne’s cut-back.
The advantage was then tripled at the stroke of half-time as Lionel Messi latched onto Andres Iniesta’s exquisite pass to score past Sergio Asenjo. Villarreal came off firing in the second half though, as Nicola Sansone deflected Pablo Fornal’s strike past Jasper Cillessen.
But, the win was rounded off late into the game as Dembele scored twice in quick succession, with the latter particularly being eye catching. Barcelona are, thus, on course for history, with just two games between them and ‘Invincibility’. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ernesto Valverde’s men.
— FC Barcelona 🏆🏆 (@FCBarcelona) May 9, 2018
Jasper Cillessen: 7/10
Cillessen had to wait a long time for it, but he was finally rewarded with his first La Liga start of the season on Wednesday. The Dutchman couldn’t end the game with a clean sheet, but there was very little he could have done to save Sansone’s goal. When he was called into action, he passed every test with flying colours, making two smart saves in the first half.
Nelson Semedo: 7/10
Semedo is nailed on at right-back for the rest of the season following Roberto’s four-match ban. And the Portuguese just continued from where he left off in the El Clasico, stopping whatever little threat came his way. The game served as the perfect platform for him to build his confidence in the final third, and he looked to have struck some sort of understanding with Dembele.
Gerard Pique: 7/10
The senior-most member in the backline, Pique played the role of the leader on Wednesday, and to good effect. Villarreal rarely threatened, but when they did, the Spaniard’s reading of the game helped him stave off the pressure well.
Thomas Vermaelen: 7/10
Vermaelen has been the go-to man for Valverde this season whenever any of his first-choice centre-backs have been unavailable. Like always, the Belgian defender stepped up well, this time in Umtiti’s stead as he kept things tight at the back and was good with the ball as well.
Lucas Digne: 7/10
With Alba rested, Digne got a rare opportunity to impress, and impress he did. Bombarding up and down the left flank, just like he senior teammate, the Frenchman was a constant threat, and even got an assist to his name, having made a smart run off the ball before serving the ball to Paulinho.
Andres Iniesta: 9/10
In what is likely to be his penultimate home game for Barcelona, Iniesta turned back the years, and how. In his elements right from the get go, the skipper exerted his control on the game, linking up well with the front men.
He played a key role in Paulinho’s goal, playing a perfectly weighted ball for Digne, who just had to square the ball for the Brazilian. But, the moment of the match came at the stroke of half-time, when he played a fine one-two with Messi, playing an exquisite ball to the Argentine for his side’s third goal. Oh, he will be missed at Camp Nou.
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
Another player who had endured an indifferent game against Real Madrid, Busquets was closer to his best on Wednesday, absorbing the Villarreal threat down the middle, whenever they tried to build up play. With Barcelona dominating the possession though, the Spaniard showed his adventurous side, often joining up in attack.
Finally, a performance somewhat reminiscent to Paulinho’s showings from the first half of the season. The Brazilian worked tirelessly on and off the ball, driving forward in typical fashion, and was rightly rewarded for his efforts with a goal – his ninth in La Liga this season.
Ousmane Dembele: 10/10
Ousmane Dembélé has been directly involved in a goal once every 92.55 minutes for Barcelona across all competitions this season:
1018 minutes ⏱
7 assists 🅰️
4 goals ⚽️
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 9, 2018
To say that it has been a tough season for Dembele would be an understatement of the travails he has gone through. But, he was in the mood right from kick off. The Frenchman caught Villarreal on the back foot early on, when he unleashed a brilliant run and took aim at goal before Coutinho scored from the rebound.
A menace for the Villarreal defenders all night, he was in the right place at the right time to score from Ivan Rakitic’s pass. Dembele then ended the night with a sublime solo run that ended with a delightful chip over Sergio Asenjo that capped off a memorable performance – his best for Barcelona so far.
Lionel Messi: 8/10
The Barcelona talisman was in fine form on Wednesday, causing Villarreal a great deal of problems by dropping deep and drifting wide every now and then, which went on to create the space for Dembele and Coutinho. The finish for his goal was way tougher than he made it look, but those are just Messi things.
Philippe Coutinho: 7.5/10
9 – Philippe Coutinho has been directly involved in nine goals in his last 10 games for Barcelona in all competitions (four goals and five assists). Acclimated. pic.twitter.com/RsFEjtZvoc
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) May 9, 2018
Starting on the left side, the Coutinho of Wednesday and the Coutinho from El Clasico were like chalk and cheese. The Brazilian reacted well to the rebound from Dembele’s shot, reaching the ball quickest to slam home the opener, and was always a dangerous outlet for the hosts.
Luis Suarez: 6/10
Given some well deserved rest, Suarez came on in the second half and brought about a sense of urgency to get a goal when there were a few on offer. But, it wasn’t to be, although it was largely down to his own wastefulness.
Ivan Rakitic: 7/10
On for Busquets, Rakitic looked fresh after starting his first game on the bench in a long time. Was impeccable for Dembele’s first goal, beating two men before providing the assist to the Frenchman.