Barcelona have finally won away from home. At the sixth time of asking they got their first three points on the road with a late Memphis Depay goal and a Philippe Coutinho injury-time penalty giving them a 3-1 victory.
Xavi’s team had been pegged back by a Samuel Chukwueze goal, cancelling out Frenkie de Jong’s opener, and their legs looked to have gone with Villarreal refreshed by their substitutes and looking like scoring with every attack.
But Pervis Estupinan’s poor header back to his keeper allowed Memphis to sneak through and score. Substitute Coutinho was then brought down by Juan Foyth and he got up to take the spot-kick and seal the points.
Barcelona have finally won away from home this season after a 3-1 win at rivals Villarreal
Midfielder Frenkie de Jong (right) opened the scoring for Barcelona against Unai Emery’s side
Home winger Samuel Chukwueze (pictured) celebrates after scoring his side’s equalising goal
The Xavi effect keeps on working – this was the first time all season Barcelona had managed back-to-back wins and they had done it with an indomitable spirit that kept them going when they looked physically spent.
It was fast and furious right from the first kick with five talking points inside the first 10 minutes. Barcelona hit the post twice with 19-year-old winger Abde, making his first start, hitting the frame of the goal with a header from a corner that Gero Rulli tipped onto the bar. Then 17-year-old Gavi cut in from the left and hit the far post.
Villarreal had their first chance and from it Gerard Pique risked giving away a penalty. He blocked Danjuma’s shot with his hand as he went to ground but the referee decided his hand had been in a natural position as he stopped the shot.
It was the second difficult decision for the match officials. Inside the first minute of the game Busquets was caught late by Dani Parejo and the Villarreal midfielder could easily have been shown a red. Instead he escaped with a booking.
Barcelona were a threat every time they attacked and De Jong slipped the pass of the night though to Memphis but inexplicably he sent his shot wide.
The pace was furious right up to the break and Alfonso Pedraza went clattering into Araujo with the Uruguayan coming off far worse. His left knee doubled and he did well to hobble back on .
Dutch winger Memphis Depay (pictured) slotted home to put Barca ahead in the game late on
Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho netted a penalty in stoppage time to seal the victory
The former Liverpool star pumps the air in celebration as Barcelona breathed a sigh of relief
He did so unnoticed by Villarreal defenders and was sent clear by a long pass by Marc Andre ter Stegen, but he couldn’t finish. It would have been a brilliant assist from Barcelona’s ‘keeper, who moments before he blocked another Danjuma shot.
The power struggle in the first half had turned on Unai Emery’s instruction to left full-back Pedraza to start attacking Abde and stop being attacked by him.
That put Barcelona on the back foot in the last few minutes of the first half and it was Abde, back defending, who poked the ball wide just before Pedraza could get his shot away.
The madness continued into the second half and Barcelona were ahead inside five minutes. Abde skipped past Pedraza and when his cross went through to Jordi Alba he crossed and Memphis and De Jong combined to bundle the ball over the line.
The flag was up but Memphis was onside and after intervention from VAR the goal was given.
Barcelona almost doubled their lead but Rulli saved Danjuma’s shot with his feet and Unai Emery made his changes, with Chukwueze and Estupiñan coming on for Pedraza and Pino. Xavi gave Ousmane Dembele the last 25 minutes, replacing the outstanding Abde.
The game may have been different if defender Gerard Pique (right) was penalised for handball
Barcelona winger Ez Abde (right), making his first start for Barca, was absolutely outstanding
New boss Xavi has two wins from two in LaLiga; the Champions League is creeping into view
But Villarreal boss Unai Emery (left) will be bemoaning his side’s late collapse at La Ceramica
Chukwueze soon got in behind Barcelona’s defence and he pulled the ball back for Trigueros to fire over. He has three goals this season, three more than Etienne Capoue and Parejo, in Villarreal’s goal-shy midfield.
Chukwueze had been lively since coming on and he got the equalizer. Barcelona had the throw but Eric Garcia’s throw went straight to Estupinan.
From there Barça lost three duels, the last of them between Oscar Mingueza and Chukwueze, who poked the ball past ter Stegen.
Villarreal now had the upper hand, and Garcia had to slide in stop an Estupinan shot from testing ter Stegen. But somehow the one-way traffic did not bring another Villarreal goal.
Estupinan’s back header let Memphis score and Coutinho got the third. Pau Torres complained about the early decision not to give a penalty against Pique but Villarreal have bigger problems.
They are closer to the drop than the European places. For Barcelona it’s now two wins from two for Xavi and the Champions League is creeping into view.