Two first-half goals from Antoine Griezmann and Arthur Melo were enough to give Barcelona all three points on Tuesday night at Camp Nou.
A Santi Cazorla stunner just before half-time made for an interesting second-half, however, the game remained 2-1, an important result for the Catalans after a dismal performance against Granada on Saturday night.
The Story of The Game
Ernesto Valverde started Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann up front together for the first time this season in the hope of earning all three points after a poor start to the La Liga season.
The Blaugrana took the lead on six minutes; Lionel Messi made his first start of the season and made an immediate impact, crossing to the near post where Antoine Griezmann glanced a backward header off the crossbar and beyond Sergio Asenjo.
On the quarter-hour, it was two with Arthur Melo scoring from 30 yards out. Sergio Busquets rolled the ball to him and the Brazilian hit the back of Asenjo’s net with a 30-yard piledriver. Barcelona were 2-0 up, the same result they lost by to Granada on Saturday evening, in what was one of their worst performances in recent memory.
Santi Cazorla’s cracker before half-time halved the home team’s lead. The Villarreal captain left Marc-André ter Stegen flapping as his left-foot shot flew past him into the roof of the net.
Ousmane Dembélé replaced Lionel Messi at half-time; the talisman went off with an injured thigh, although, head coach Valverde stated in the press conference after the game that it was a precautionary substitution.
"When something happens to Messi the world stops," Valverde said.
"But it doesn't seem to be anything more than a nuisance in the adductor. We took him off as a precaution."
Dembélé raced down the right after the break and crossed to the back post, compatriot Griezmann was unable to finish the chance off, scuffing his shot away from danger.
A couple of minutes later, it was Dembélé again, he managed to spin away from Javier Ontiveros and cross to Suarez but the number nine struck his effort straight at Asenjo from close range.
Barcelona supporters whistled Suarez as he was substituted; 16-year-old wonderkid Ansu Fati replaced the Uruguayan and made an immediate impact, shooting narrowly wide of the post. Fati, who is expected to travel with Spain to the under-17 World Cup in Brazil next month, went down in the box under minimum contact and penalty appeals were waved away.
Villarreal pressed for an equaliser as the game wore on, Cazorla picked out Samuel Chukwueze but he delayed his shot and the chance was gone.
Ter Stegen thwarted an effort from substitute Moi Gomez to keep his side in front. Gerard Pique went close with a well-struck free-kick late on, however, the second half ended scoreless.
It was an important victory for the Catalans, who have struggled defensively since the season opener – a 1-0 away defeat to Athletic Club. No clean sheets after six games must be a concern for Valverde; Cazorla’s strike was the 10th goal Barcelona have conceded in the league so far this season.
Barcelona has conceded 10 goals in their opening six games. This is a team that will score goals with Messi, Suarez, Griezmann and Fati, however, they will be looking to reduce their goals conceded count.
Fati makes another impact
Ansu Fati replaced Luis Suarez and set the Camp Nou a light, causing havoc for Villarreal every time he got on the ball. The youngster went close on a couple of occasions. With Barcelona’s mediocre start to the campaign, they may look to prevent Fati from heading off on World Cup duty with Spain at next month’s under-17 tournament. He has been their best attacking threat this season.
Villarreal scores again
Villarreal have now scored in 19 consecutive games. It’s the best run in the club’s Premier division history, and they’ve scored 36 times along the way. Captain Santi Cazorla has been instrumental this season and was given an ovation by the Camp Nou faithful as he was substituted.