Coming into the 30th matchday of the 2018-19 season, Barcelona were 10 points clear of nearest challengers Atletico and a further two adrift of Clásico rivals Real Madrid. Villarreal meanwhile were going through a rough patch. In 29 league games, they had amassed only 29 points and sat just within a point of the relegation spots.
Come season’s end, Villarreal had won 15 of the 27 available points, finishing in 14th place while Barça, for the 26th time in their history, were crowned best in Spain.
Roberto · Piqué · Lenglet · Jordi Alba
Vidal – Busquets – Arthur
Malcom – Suarez – Coutinho
Coach: Ernesto Valverde
Ruiz – Funes – Gonzalez
Alfonso – Cazorla – Morlanes – Mario
Coach: Javier Calleja
The Blaugrana travelled to the Estadio de la Cerámica knowing that a win would all but confirm their status as league champions for an eighth time in eleven years. Boasting a 6 match winning streak, Barcelona were always favourites coming into this fixture but despite their position on the table, they were facing a tricky outfit in the form of the Yellow Submarine.
Despite not having Lionel Messi in the starting line-up, the Catalan kings found themselves ahead early on. Sergi Roberto lacerated the entire Villarreal backline with a through ball and found Malcom Oliveira free in the right wing. With all the time in the world, Malcom then played a low cross into Philippe Coutinho’s path for an easy tap in. Malcom doubled the lead just four minutes later. Arturo Vidal played an in-swinging cross towards the far post for his South American counterpart to head in.
Barcelona could quite easily have been three up before the half-hour mark. Having drawn out his markers, Luis Suárez played a delicate pass into Coutinho’s path but unfortunately, his goalbound effort could only effort struck the bottom of the post. On the other end of the pitch, Samuel Chukuweze gave his side some much-needed respite. On a counter-attack and with the Catalans’ defence at sixes and sevens, his first shot struck the frame of the goal and on the rebound, he maintained his composure and got his side right back into the game.
Half-time score: Villareal 1-2 Barcelona
Malcom celebrating his goal | Photo by David Aliaga via Imago
Despite being a goal down and second best in almost every way, it didn’t take long for Villarreal to signal their intent for the second period. Just four minutes into the start of the second half, Villarreal got a much deserved equaliser. Given Jordi Alba’s offensive nature the left flank was an area they sought to exploit and Karl Toko Ekambi took full advantage of the extra real estate. In either a display of brilliance or sheer fortune in front of goal, he wrongfooted Marc André ter Stegen and placed the ball in the German’s near post.
Having identified the enormous space Samuel Umtiti had left in defence, Manuel Morlanes played a fantastic through ball into Vincente Iborra’s path and the Spaniard, cool as you like, rolled the ball past a defenseless ter Stegen. In the lead for the first time in the match, all the momentum swung immediately in their favour. Chukuweze would then force ter Stegen into a phenomenal save as his vicious effort was parried onto the crossbar.
This miss mattered little in the grand scheme of things as substitute Carlos Bacca would then put the game seemingly out of reach. The Colombian rounded the goalkeeper and cooly dispatched his shot into the back of the net to take the home side from two goals down into a two goal lead. With everything falling apart and considering how much of a success his cameo performance at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan was just a year prior, Valverde called upon Messi to save Barcelona yet again.
Tensions were rising and emotions getting the better of the players. Unfortunately for Villarreal, the very passion that had gotten them into such a commanding lead would lead to their downfall. Following a foul on Luis Suárez, Álvaro González received his second yellow card and was subsequently given his marching orders.
Just three minutes following Gonzalez’ dismissal, Messi turned the game on its head. First, through an unbelievable free kick, his seventh of the domestic season, the Argentine got Barcelona in touching distance of a draw. With doubts rising, Villarreal restored to dirty tactics and time wasting but the error in their way was the creation of the corner. Lionel Messi stepped out, played an out-swinger. With pure striker’s instinct, Suárez struck a sumptuous half-volley on his left foot past a helpless Sergio Asenjo.
Villarreal might have deserved better than the one point they earned but it surely was a game worth looking back on. That concludes this episode of the rewind.
Full-time score: Villareal 4-4 Barcelona
The Rewind: Dynamo Kyiv 1-2 Barcelona, 2009/10
As Barcelona prepare themselves to face Dynamo Kyiv in the fourth Matchday of the UEFA Champions League, join us as we reminisce the Catalans’ last away victory over the Ukrainians back in the 2009-10 season in this episode of The Rewind.
While the 0-4 loss in the Camp Nou from the late 20th century had a more profound impact in the hearts and minds of both camps of supporters, the Blaugranas’ 1-2 away victory over the Ukrainians was a slightly less memorable result, but memorable nonetheless as the defending European champions came from behind to secure a late victory.
The possibility of Barcelona not making it to the knockout stages was very much a reality, the odds of it happening were rather slim. The Catalans would not only need to lose to their Ukrainian – Dynamo Kyiv – counterparts by two or more goals, but they would also require a win from either one of Rubin Kazan or Inter Milan to crash out of the competition.
Eremenko · Yussuf · Betão · Magrão
Leandro Almeida · Mikhalik · Vukojević
Shevchenko · Yarmolenko · Milevskiy
Dani Alves · Piqué · Puyol · Abidal
Xavi · Busquets · Keita
Messi · Ibrahimović · Iniesta
The odds were indeed in their favour, however, it did not exactly translate to a guarantee and this much the men in Garnet and Blue learnt just 120 seconds into the encounter.
Following a sumptuous cross from Andriy Shevchenko via a free-kick, Artem Milevskiy connected with the ball, squeezing the ball past Victor Valdes’ gloves and into the back of the net to open the scoring. In and of itself the goal was far from what one would call picture-esque. This mattered little to the hounds of eccentric Dynamo supporters, though. They wanted the lead, they wanted a round of 16 spot, and they were halfway there right from the get-go.
Barcelona’s patience and persistence paid off eventually as in the 33rd minute, the visitors did draw level. Following some of the intricate passing synonymous with the Pep era, Xavi Hernández’ capped off what was a truly remarkable move as he tapped the ball home from Eric Abidal’s cutback.
Xavi got the scores to level pegging. (Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP)
One might argue that Barça should have already been through with the game given the sheer dominance they had asserted over their hosts, but fine margins such as those were the determining factor in that match.
Such was the unpredictability of the game as a whole as despite being on the back-foot for most of the opening 45 minutes, the hosts almost went into the break back in the lead. They played primarily on the counter-attack and if not for a Gerard Piqué last gasp block, Barça would have — undeservedly — ended the half a goal down.
Half Time: Dynamo Kyiv 1-1 Barcelona
The second period began just as the first ended, with Kyiv on the break. Shevchenko was once again the catalyst of the action, however, his delicately whipped cross was poorly met by Leandro, whose headed effort went over the bar and out for a goal kick.
Given the context of the match, Barcelona were more than content with hogging the ball for as long as they would like as either one of a draw or a loss by one goal would be enough to see them through to the next round of the Champions League. A crude mix of the impending stress of falling at the hands of Barça and worse, in front of their own fans, clouded the hosts’ judgment. The referee brandished back to back cautionary cards to both Leandro and Ognjen Vukojević for their rough challenges.
The Spanish league leaders thought that they had grabbed the lead as Gerard Piqué’s effort rattled the back of the net, though to his dismay it was ruled out following a push by teammate Zlatan Ibrahimović during the move.
While he had been rather quiet for his standards for most of the match, Lionel Messi produced the breakthrough his side longed for, and he did so with a free-kick oozing of class just four minutes from time. The Argentine worked up his angles and struck the ball off the underside of the crossbar, past a helpless Shovskovskiy and into the back of the net to seal a well-deserved victory for his side.
You could never keep Barcelona and Lionel Messi down for too long, especially when we rewind to 2009, as Dynamo Kyiv found out the hard way.
Why do we fall, sir? (Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP)
The Catalan kings rejoiced with the full-time whistle while they left their opposite numbers were full to the brim with reprieve. At the end of the day, the better team won as the Champions deservedly advanced to the knockout stages, where they found themselves rather unfortunate to lose to Jose Mourinho’s Inter in the semifinals. All said and done, Culés wish they can rewind their clocks to 2009 to watch Barcelona run riot over Dynamo Kyiv again.
Full Time: Dynamo Kyiv 1-2 Barcelona