Madrid: FC Barcelona rode their luck to win 3-1 away to Villarreal thanks to two late goals against the run of play when the home side were in control of the game and creating chances.
The result was harsh on Villarreal who were pressing for a winning goal when a bad defensive error gifted Barca their second goal of the game late on Saturday night.
Barca coach Xavi Hernandez again put faith in youth with Gavi, Nico Gonzalez and Abde in his starting 11 and his side started strongly with Abde, who played as a right wing-back, seeing Geronimo Rulli tip his header onto the bar.
Memphis Depay also went close for Barca, while Gavi’s shot hit the outside of the post before Villarreal began to take control, with Moi Gomez and Alfonso Pedraza causing problems down their left flank, Xinhua reports. Yeremy Pino headed just over for Villarreal, while Arnaut Danjuma fired wide and then his shot straight at Marc Andre Ter Stegen as the home side controlled the closing minutes of the half.
Villarreal also had a penalty claim turned down after Pique clearly blocked a shot from Danjuma with his arm, but inexplicably the VAR didn’t enter to inform the referee of a penalty that appeared to be very clear.
Barca took the lead early in the second half with Frenkie De Jong scoring after a flick from Depay, which was given after a long VAR review. The game became scrappy for a while with Ousmane Dembele replacing Abde and Jordi Alba had to go off injured and was replaced by Oscar Mingueza with 20 minutes left to play.
Samuel Chukwueze levelled for Villarreal in the 76th minute with a first time shot after a move involving Manu Trigueros and Danjuma and the Nigerian was close to setting Trigueros up for a second a couple of minutes later.
Villarreal had a second wind with Pervis Estupinan seeing a shot blocked before Trigueros and then Danjuma both fired wide. The home side were in control but in the 87th minute Memphis scored the winner after a dreadful error from Estupinan, who headed Ter Stegen’s long clearance to the striker, who kept his calm to round Rulli and score from a tight angle.
Coutinho made it 3-1 in injury time from the penalty spot after being fouled by Juan Foyth. Valencia and Rayo Vallecano drew 1-1 in the Mestalla Stadium, with Carlos Soler scoring a first half penalty to put Valencia ahead, while Isi scored from close range in the 64th minute to give Rayo a point they thoroughly deserved.
Goals from Santi Mina and Iago Aspas gave Celta a 2-1 win away to Alaves, who had equalised through their top scorer Joselu. Defences were on top from start to finish as Mallorca and Getafe drew 0-0 in the pouring rain, although Getafe will see the point as a sign of their continued improvement since the arrival of Quique Sanchez Flores as first team coach.