Memphis Depay scored a late winner for Barcelona, as the tie almost went to the wire against a spirited Villarreal side during an assured 3-1 triumph, claiming Xavi’s second consecutive La Liga win to end a winless run of five away matches.
Barcelona dominated the opening stages and should have taken the lead on multiple occasions. Abde Ezzalzouli saw his header from a corner tipped over by Gerónimo Rulli, whilst Depay failed to hit the target, having rounded the Argentine goalkeeper. However, the visitors came closest through Gavi, whose driven left-footed shot from inside the penalty area clipped the Villarreal woodwork.
Such missed chances looked like they would cost Barcelona, as Villarreal began to impose themselves on the clash. Almost on cue, both Yeremi Pino and Pau Torres looped headers over the crossbar from corners, whilst Arnaut Danjuma came close on two occasions just inside the visitors’ penalty area.
Buoyed by Xavi’s words at the break, the away side began the second half on top and found a deserved breakthrough just three minutes after the restart. Jordi Alba fired a left-footed pass across the box, with Frenkie de Jong eventually bundling the ball over the line. While the strike was initially ruled out for offside, a lengthy VAR check found there were no infringements made by the Barcelona players and the goal stood.
With a slender advantage in hand, Barcelona started to sit off their opponents, allowing the hosts ample time and space. Having come close through Manu Trigueros moments earlier, Samuel Chukwueze eventually fired Villarreal level with a calmly slotted finish beyond Marc-André ter Stegen.
Despite multiple Villarreal chances at the opposite end, Barcelona would score twice late on to steal the three points. The decisive goal came through Depay, who nonchalantly rolled the ball underneath an onrushing Rulli, before Philippe Coutinho netted a third from the penalty spot in added time following a reckless Juan Foyth challenge. The victory sees Xavi’s men move up to seventh as a dismal season becomes ever brighter