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Villarreal own goal brace saves Barcelona

Dani Alves brace of sorts
Dani Alves brace of sorts
Photo by David Ramos

At El Madrigal, Spanish Football hosts Villarreal lost to visiting Barcelona 3-2 in a bizarre La Liga match today.

The first goal, at the 46:06 minute of first half stoppage time, was a counter that saw Villarreal's Jonathan Pereira make a nice through pass for Ruben Garcia Cani to shoot from the middle of the box to the lower right corner for the opening score.

The hosts, hoping to salvage a chance for European play next season, outplayed Barcelona for stretches and deserved their half-time advantage.

As the second half opened the more sure footed hosts pressed their advantage and another textbook counter saw Javier Aquino put a perfect cross to a trailing Manu Trigueros who put a perfect header by the left post and past the diving Jose Pinto for the 2-0 advantage at the 55th minute.

And then Villarreal's world caved in.

At the 64:47 minute Barcelona's Davi Alves tried his umpteenth cross only to have it ricochet and be redirected by Gabriel Paulista for an own goal, but still a 2-1 Villarreal lead.

At the 78th minute Davi Alves tried his umpteenth-plus-one cross only to have Mateo Musacchio head the ball powerfully into his own goal when he was attempting to intercept and clear. Now we had a tied game.

At the 82:19 minute, Barcelona, who had found its proper gear once Cesc Fabregas came in as a substitute, had a classic Catalan goal seal the deal 3-2 for Barca.

Sergio Busquets chipped a pass to Fabregas who was darting into the box from right to left. Cesc headed the ball between two defenders and back to the right, toward the closer-in middle of the box, finding an unmarked Lionel Messi who wasted no time beating Villarreal goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo for the easy and pretty score.

With the win, Barcelona remain with slim hopes of catching Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid and competing for the La Liga trophy, the only trophy they have left to pursue. Tata Martino, said to be on his way out, was at least making the right roster moves while ridding the tsunami of good fortune that came his way in this match.

Villarreal received a real blow to their European hopes and must have been particularly stung by the fact that they outplayed their betters, deserved the win, were two goals up, yet had fate snatch it from them with three body blows. Not only were the own goals egregious if unfortunate miscues but to add salt to the wound the winning goal, which was worthy of a win, was the only truly spectacular Barcelona play all game long.

As the season winds down Atletico are still in the driver's seat but a single miscue could cost them a championship. Barcelona and Real Madrid, still in the hunt mathematically, might just need to rely on each other to create a chance for one another, a rare situation indeed.