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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Barcelona stunned as Villarreal edge eight-goal thriller

Barcelona’s hopes of challenging for the LaLiga EASPORTS title took a huge dent after they succumbed to a 5-3 defeat against Villarreal at Estadi Olmpic Llus Companys on Saturday.

Coach Xavi Hernandez insisted he had the backing of the board despite calls for the club icon to be sacked after their Copa Del Rey exit in midweek. But it remains to be seen if he will survive following their latest loss.

Alex Baena struck home after just three minutes of play but the offside flag was correctly raised, but it was a warning sign for Barcelona, who have been guilty of conceding early in recent games.

Chances arrived for both sides, with Joao Felix and Lamine Yamal both denied by Filip Jorgensen, and former Barcelona starlet Ilias Akhomach was proving to be a danger for the Yellow Submarines.

Gerard Moreno thought he had given Villarreal a shock lead after 34 minutes at Montjuic but after a VAR review, the goal was chalked off as Alexander Sorloth was deemed to be interfering with play.

But the Spain international would get his well-deserved goal just before the interval to hand Villarreal the lead after smashing home from inside the penalty area.

Fuming Xavi takes drastic measures

Desperate to turn things around, Xavi made a triple change at the break, bringing on Pedri, Joao Cancelo and Pau Cubarsi for Hector Fort, Andreas Christensen and Oriol Romeu.

Ilkay Gundogan reacts after Villarreal’s Jose Luis Morales scores the fifthJoan MonfortAP

But things would get worse before they improved for the hosts, who found themselves 2-0 down on 54 minutes after former La Masia alum Akhomach pounced on a horrific error from Cancelo to round Inaki Pena and score.

Xavi then hooked Joao Felix for Ferran Torres and the Spaniard made an instant impact, playing a part in the build-up as Robert Lewandowski set up Ilkay Gundogan to pull one back on the hour mark.

The goal sparked Barca into life and only eight minutes later, Pedri reprised the role of super sub as he squeezed a low effort into the bottom corner to level things up at 2-2 before Eric Bailly’s own goal handed the home side an unlikely 3-2 lead.

But with victory finally in their hands, Goncalo Guedes powered a low drive into the corner following a quick counterattack with six minutes to go.

Barcelona were dramatically awarded a penalty in stoppage time with Jorge Cuenca penalised, but after a lengthy review, VAR correctly overturned the decision.

And in the 100th minute, Sorloth stabbed home to stun the home fans, before Jose Luis Morales added further insult to injury to bring the curtain down on a surreal second half.



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