FC Barcelona widened an 11-point gap at the top of La Liga by beating Villarreal 1-0 away on Sunday night. Here’s the score, player ratings, and what we learned.
Villarreal 0 – 1 FC Barcelona
Pédri, 18 years old
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen
Closed the angle for Jose Luis Morales’ late first-half shot. But as we saw against Sevilla, he didn’t have much to do due to his overall well-functioning backline. 7
Played a bad ball through the box in the first half but was strong in the tackle. Started the second half with a nice slalom dribble in the Villarreal area. Not as impressive as Jordi Alba last week but still stable. 7
Solid from the Dane as always. It looked like he didn’t really have any great moments to speak of, but he was always in the right place at the right time to snuff out any potential danger, as seen with a downtime block of a pass. threatening near his 18-yard penalty area. 7
Called ‘unbeatable’ by Movistar’s commentary team on the comeback to snuff out a move from Yeremy Pino and clear the danger in 10 minutes. Picked up a yellow card for a softball and will miss the next game. But any credit he lost for that was redeemed by another excellent clearance to prevent Pino from scoring around the hour mark. He had the Spain international’s number all evening. 9
Made a meal of a clearance that played Jose Luis Morales as half-time approached, although Pedri’s pass wasn’t the best. Blocked a dangerous cross midway through the second half and another on the death. 7
Started with a quiet 20 minute opener and then gradually got the better of the game. Started the move that led to Pedri’s goal and also set Lewandowski up with a nice recovered chip. His six interceptions and powerful tackles meant he provided Barca’s physical heartbeat and didn’t just dictate the pace of their game. Created the most chances in the first half and completed all of their dribbles. 9 – MAN OF THE MATCH
It was difficult for him to get started creatively due to the amount of stuff he received at Villarreal, with opposition members often claiming he had fouled them. Sometimes it was easy to forget he was on the pitch and although he was better against Sevilla, he had a less attacking role here and did the dirty work off the ball that Xavi expected of him. 7
He started off great with a delicious through ball for Lewandowski and only got better. Another ball from a cross from the right wing hit Andreas Christensen but was not enough to threaten the goal. In the 17th minute, he completed an excellent move with a 1-2 with Lewandowski and gave Barca the lead. Release Raphinha later in the first half but the Brazilian couldn’t take advantage of it. A minor blip was a bad pass for Kounde who the Frenchman failed to meet, who played Jose Luis Morales on the stroke of halftime. Quieter in the second half but her opening 45 was more than enough to get people talking. 9
Played more central in the early parts of the game and was reprimanded by Xavi for an inaccurate ball down the wing when trying to trigger Lewandowski. I had a tough night to rough up but as always, I never gave in. I started getting more involved with about an hour and a quarter to play with a better cast. 7
Another mixed bag from Pole. Missed a chance on goal thanks to a delightful pass from Pedri at the start of the gates and hit Pep Reina straight. Provided an assist for Pedri with a nice 1-2 move but then missed another chance after a nice Frenkie chip that wasn’t the easiest. Raphinha should have done better with her assist in the second half. 7
Was able to come more to the center thanks to Kounde occupying the right. Like Gavi, his distribution on the wings was a bit heavy. Although he played an important role in setting up Pedri’s goal, he failed to take advantage of two angling passes from Pedri and Lewandowski. Was Xavi’s first substitution for Ferran Torres with 10 minutes to spare and picked up a yellow card; the coach, however, seemed pleased with himself. 6
What we learned:
Barca are now 11 points clear after refusing to be intimidated by a tough opponent and picking up another road win to remain unbeaten in 16 matches.
The likes of Pedri, Ronald Araujo and Frenkie de Jong again proved to be great players and untouchable in the starting XI. But there were plenty of less busy but still strong performances across the team, hence the abundance of ‘7’ ratings.
Some stars on the sidelines such as Frenck Kessie and Raphinha haven’t taken the chance to impress but are not at risk for now due to injuries to Sergio Busquets and Ousmane Dembele.
Barca were good, but maybe they should be better against Manchester United on Thursday in the Europa League.