Barça labour to win over Villarreal
Gerard Pique’s opener was added to late on by Carles Aleña’s first LaLiga goal, putting gloss on a scoreline that was much closer than Ernesto Valverde would have liked for much of the game.
The ‘Blaugrana’ dominated for much of the first period, although it was the away side who went closest when Moreno hit the post, but they could not find a way through. Ousmane Dembele was a particular threat down the right hand side, while Messi and Ivan Rakitic both went close.
However, it was the likely source of Pique who eventually found the target. Dembele recycled a ball into the box following a breakdown from a corner, and the centre back made a late run to meet the ball on the jump and head into the turf. Sergio Asenjo in could could do nothing as it flew past him.
Unfortunately for the reigning champions, that was as good as it got. Villarreal came out much stronger in the second half, dominating possession and territory, albeit without much end product. The introduction of Carlos Bacca made little difference, and Aleña made it game over with three minutes to go.
Aleña is one of the hottest talents to come out of La Masia in recent years, and the staff in Catalonia will be hoping that this is the first of many. The academy product ran on to an exquisite through ball, before chipping a finish over the ‘keeper and in.
In truth, neither team possessed much attacking threat on the night, but there is some solace for Valverde. Barcelona have returned - at least until Sevilla play - to the top of the table, and they have kept a clean sheet in the league for the first time since August 25th.