Messi to the rescue again, off the bench, as Barcelona rally for wild 4-4 draw at Villarreal
Barcelona threw away a two-goal lead and then came back from two goals down to eventually draw 4-4 with Villarreal in an incredible game at the Estadio de la Ceramica on Tuesday.
Early efforts from Philippe Coutinho and Malcom looked to have Barca on track for three points before the home side produced a stunning fight back. Samuel Chukwueze pulled a goal back before the break and Karl Toko Ekambi leveled the scores in the second half.
Villarreal then took the lead through Vicente Iborra, and Carlos Bacca appeared to wrap up the win when he added a fourth in the 80th minute. But Alvaro Gonzalez's red card five minutes from time set the stage for a thrilling finale. Lionel Messi rifled in a free kick in the 90th minute and Suarez salvaged a point with a brilliant volley in stoppage time.
Despite dropping two points, Barca will take heart from their comeback. In Messi, who now has 42 goals in all competitions this season, and Suarez, they always know they have a chance.
Atletico Madrid's win against Girona earlier on Tuesday means their lead at the top is down to eight points, but they will have a chance to extend it again when they host Diego Simeone's side on Saturday. Meanwhile, Malcom's first-half performance was also encouraging and Coutinho showed a little more promise than he has in recent weeks.
For the first time this season, Gerard Pique was rested for a league game... and Barca fell apart at the back. Samuel Umtiti and Clement Lenglet both had nights to forget. That will be hugely concerning for coach Ernesto Valverde. Lenglet can be forgiven a bad one-off performance, perhaps, but Umtiti still looks rusty off the back of a lengthy knee injury.
There are also a few issues in midfield. Sergio Busquets has had a couple of off-days recently, while Arthur's struggling to make an impact creatively.
Manager Rating out of 10
6 -- Valverde, perhaps understandably, given Barca's upcoming games against Atletico and Manchester United, took the decision to rest Messi, Pique and Ivan Rakitic. Surprisingly, though, it was the latter two who were missed most as Barca disintegrated at the back after taking a two-goal lead.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 7 -- Conceded four times but also made four stunning saves, three in the first half and one after the break. Could do little about the majority of the goals but he will blame himself for the Ekambi strike and the amount of space he left at his near post.
DF Sergi Roberto, 6 -- The defender who could be blamed the least on the night, perhaps because Villarreal did so much damage down the other flank.
DF Samuel Umtiti, 4 -- Looked like a player who has been out for the majority of the season and is still trying to regain his match fitness. Was criminally caught out of position for the Bacca goal in particular.
DF Clement Lenglet, 4 -- Given an absolutely torrid time by Nigerian teenager Chukwueze. Couldn't deal with his pace and directness on what was perhaps his worst performance in a Barca shirt.
DF Jordi Alba, 5 -- Unable to deal with Chukwueze for Villarreal's first goal and played Iborra onside for the third. Struggled against Chukwueze and Ekambi all night.
MF Sergio Busquets, 5 -- Wasteful on the ball in advanced positions. Was lucky that one giveaway didn't end up in a fourth Villarreal goal as Ter Stegen's finger tips pushed Chukwueze's effort onto the bar.
MF Arturo Vidal, 6 -- Produced a fine cross for Malcom's goal and was the pick of Barca's midfielders, not that that says much. Was booked, though, and will miss Saturday's game against Atletico.
MF Arthur Melo, 6 -- A second successive game in which he has failed to make an impact further forward. The Brazilian has had a good first season at the club but more will be demanded of him from now.
FW Malcom, 7 -- Did brilliantly to set up Coutinho's goal and scored a fine back post header in what was his first start since Feb. 6 (when he scored in the Clasico against Real Madrid). Set up chances for Umtiti and Suarez, too, and hit the side netting as Barca probed late on.
FW Luis Suarez, 6 -- Started well, creating space for Malcom and Coutinho, but quickly faded. Nothing stuck to him in the second half, until he appeared from nowhere to score a wonderful late leveler from the edge of the box.
FW Philippe Coutinho, 6 -- Scored the opening goal from close range after good work from Malcom and hit the post not long after. A bright start soon faded, though, and he was replaced by Messi on the hour.
FW Lionel Messi, 7 -- Came on with the score 2-2 and masterminded Barca's comeback having initially seen them slip behind. His free kick could not have been better placed.
MF Carles Alena, NR -- Brought on for Arthur as Barcelona chased the game.
MF Ivan Rakitic, NR -- Like Alena, came on too late, in place of Busquets, to really have an impact as Messi and Suarez stepped up.