Villarreal saw paradise at Montjuic, as Barcelona fell deeper into the abyss on Saturday night. The script was not meant to be so harsh, and the sheer disappointment of losing after pioneering a comeback will sting the side for a long time to come.
The media after the game has once again focused on the blame game, pointing fingers at players, the management and the board.
Repercussions after the result have been massive, and could possibly change the course of Barcelona’s future. The immediate impact, however, is that the Catalans have fallen ten points behind Real Madrid and are virtually out of contention for the league title.
With three defeats in their last five games, Barcelona are far from where they want to be. At this point in the season, however, there are doubts if a response can even be mounted from the dressing room that shows no desire on the field.
Barça Universal brings you three talking points from Barcelona 3-5 Villarreal.
A tale of two comebacks
When Ronald Araujo headed in Barcelona’s third goal in eleven minutes, the Estadi Olimpic de Lluis Companys exploded with a roar. The home team looked second best for large parts in the first half and had deservedly fallen two goals behind on the night.
Yet, they stood their ground and pushed forward in attack after the break. The team looked revitalised and fresh, and despite conceding the second goal after the restart, took inspiration from Ikay Gundogan’s special strike.
In quick succession, Pedri found the back of the net to level the scoring before Ronald Araujo headed in the goal that gave his side the lead. With just over twenty minutes left, the game was surely done. Or was it?
Unfortunately for the hosts, their comeback was not the only one in the script on the night. If Barcelona scored thrice in 11 minutes, Marcelino’s side drew inspiration to replicate the same with the odds against them and prevailed emphatically.
Villarreal first struck back with an equaliser in the 84th minute through Goncalo Guedes, putting the pressure on Barcelona to push forward in attack. Both sides battled on tenaciously, but Alexander Sorloth capitalised on the hosts’ poor defence to slot in a winner nine minutes into extra-time.
If the wounds the hosts suffered were not painful enough, the Yellow Submarines rubbed salt into their wounds with a fifth goal three minutes later. They had made a comeback over a comeback in grandstand fashion, leaving Barcelona and Xavi desolate and sinking to the ground.
Barcelona’s incompetent defence has been a constantly discussed theme amidst the team’s shambolic season thus far. From an elite status last season, the Catalan back-line has fallen exponentially and it now appears that they can stoop no lower.
The mistakes in defence against Villarreal once again poured to no end. Right from Inaki Pena in goal who was unconvincing in every aspect to the usual culprits in the centre-backs, every player in the defence has to shoulder responsibility for the defeat.
Pena, to begin with, did not get into a good position to save any of Villarreal’s five goals. His goals-prevented tally on the night was a shameful -1.60 as he managed just one save on the night.
To put the defensive show in perspective, the Blaugranas conceded five goals from Villarreal’s xG of just 2.18. One must also not forget that The Yellow Submarines had two goals disallowed, meaning they found the back of the net seven times with that xG tally.
Jules Kounde at right-back was decent in attack but frequently caught out of position in defence. He was to blame partly for Moreno’s first goal of the game luckily was ruled out for offside.
Ronald Araujo, who is usually the team’s most consistent performer, delivered a disaster class last night. He may have scored a crucial goal, but he was easily outdone by Villarreal’s dynamic passing and off-the-ball runs. He also directly gave the ball away for the visitors’ winning goal apart from losing possession 11 times.
Christensen was not much better, as his error helped Moreno with his eventual opener for Villarreal. He was taken off at half-time, but Joao Cancelo who came on also made a blatant error to gift the visitors a goal.
Individual errors and a lack of chemistry has left Barcelona’s defence at a low they have never seen before. Needless to say, the route back to the top does not appear simple.
The final blow
The biggest talking point after the game, and rightfully so, are the events that unfolded after the full-time whistle at Montjuic.
Xavier Hernandez has been under pressure for a long time now, especially considering the team’s elimination from the Copa del Rey and the defeat to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup.
Questions have been asked over his future, answers demanded over his qualifications for the job, and doubts cast over his ability to take Barcelona forward. The pressure that has been building finally exploded last night, as the manager made a sudden announcement of his departure at the end of the season.
As a legend of the club and one of the greatest players to have ever graced the field, Xavi deserved better. His love for the club was repeatedly questioned, he was blamed for his players’ incompetence, and as is the case in Barcelona every year, he had to pay the price.
The pain in the manager’s eyes when he announced his resignation will haunt Barcelona fans for years. “I tried,’ he said almost tearfully, leaving fans across the world contemplating the impact their words and pressure have had on the team.
Xavi arrived at Barcelona when the team was at an all-time low. He trusted the board and the academy, rebuilt from scrap and took the team to not only the Copa del Rey but also to a La Liga title amidst disarray.