Disappointment in El Madrigal: Villarreal 1, Barcelona 3 (2-6 aggregate)
Villarreal's Copa del Rey adventure ended in defeat today, Barcelona winning this match 3-1 and advancing 6-2 on aggregate. It could hardly have started worse for Villarreal, as in the third minute Barcelona scored in their first foray into Villarreal's half of the pitch. The Villarreal back four seemed more interested in trying to play the offside trap than getting close to anyone, and a pinpoint Messi cross toward the back post found the onrushing Neymar, who made a perfect run and finish.
The Submarine, to its credit, didn't let that stop them. Unfortunately, none of the Vietto-Cheryshev-Uche trio had a great match; ter Stegen did have to be alert to stop a Chery shot at the near post, and Vietto flashed a header over the bar, but otherwise it was mostly Barcelona controlling the ball in the middle of the pitch and then retreating quickly to clog up the passing lanes when our pressure forced a turnover.
Villarreal dominated the first half and finally got the goal they deserved in the 40th minute, a cross from Jaume Costa to the far post being touched home by Jonathan dos Santos. The talking point though came in the buildup, when Tomas Pina caught Sergio Busquets' ankle with his boot after making the pass to Costa. Busquets was stretchered off, Jeremy Mathieu came on, and things looked a little brighter for Villarreal--though they still needed two goals to force extra time.
HT Villarreal 1-1 Barcelona
The first twenty minutes of the second half were fairly even; our keeper intervened to keep the score 1-1 when Messi found room for a shot, while at the other end Villarreal forced some corners and created some danger, but just couldn't make the critical pass at the necessary time to break down the Barca back line. Still, it seems as though all we needed was one break to make it 2-1, and then we'd be in for a barnburner of a time.
But unfortunately, that's not what happened. Tomas Pina made a horror tackle on Neymar from behind, leaping into his challenge and wrapping both legs around the Brazilian, right in front of the referee. I have no idea what he was thinking, but if he was worried Neymar was going to start a break, he could have just grabbed him and taken a yellow. As it was, Neymar escaped any real injury since he was moving away from the tackle, but there was no way referee Borbalan could do anything else other than send Pina off.
That pretty much ended it. Villarreal did have one brief attacking flurry while a man down, but Marcelino perhaps signaled he was throwing in the towel by taking off Cheryshev for Joel Campbell with 20 minutes left. Then again, the Russian had been subpar on the day, so maybe he just thought a change might help. It didn't, as within three minutes Barcelona won the ball in midfield and Luis Suarez outsprinted Victor Ruiz to control a long pass, round Asenjo, and score into the empty net.
It wasn't over yet (well, it was, but you know what I mean): a Campbell tackle in Iniesta got the benches arguing with each other, and with two minutes to go a Xavi pass to Neymar provided a third goal. Musacchio was at fault that time for losing his marker, not that it mattered really.
Referee Borbalan mercifully ended the match right on the stroke of normal time with Barca buzzing around our box again.
FT Villarreal 1-3 Barcelona (2-6 agg)
Many of the fans clapped the team off the pitch, but our players looked pretty disappointed by it all. The scoreline in no way reflected the effort they put forth tonight. Coming back from the first goal was good but we never really made Barcelona work hard enough for long enough to get a second goal, and once Pina was sent off, any chance we had was over. A really stupid play on his part.
Next up, Celta in the league on Sunday, and then a match against Sevilla in the Europa League. Hopefully everyone can take the positives in the first hour out of this and forget the final result. Endavant Villarreal!