Barcelona’s La Liga title hopes took a major blow after a rollercoaster clash with Villarreal ended in a dramatic 5-3 defeat for the Catalans. Two stoppage-time goals from the Yellow Submarine ripped the heart out of Barça, who had fought back from 2-0 down to lead 3-2 before their late collapse.
With rivals Real Madrid already 10 points clear at the top, the pressure was on Xavi’s side to bounce back from their earlier slip-up. But things began badly for Barça, with two Villarreal goals ruled out for offside and a foul in the first 22 minutes.
Villarreal finally broke the deadlock on the hour mark, Gerard Moreno finishing coolly from Alexander Sørloth’s cross. After the break, substitute Ilias Akhomach doubled the Yellow Submarine’s lead with a cheeky chip over Iñaki Peña.
Barça looked down and out, but this is the team that won 4-3 at Villarreal earlier this season. And just like that, they were back in it. İlkay Gündoğan’s clinical finish gave them hope, Pedri levelled from inside the box, and Eric Bailly’s own goal from a Gündoğan free-kick put Barça unbelievably ahead 3-2.
The game looked set for a thrilling draw, but Villarreal had other ideas. Gonçalo Guedes’ 84th-minute equalizer was just the start of the drama. In the 99th minute, Sørloth tapped home from close range, and deep into stoppage time, José Luis Morales sealed the unlikely comeback with a fifth goal for the Yellow Submarine.
This was a game with everything: disallowed goals, stunning strikes, late comebacks, and a heartbreaking last-gasp twist. For Villarreal, it was a stunning victory that ended a four-game winless run on the road. For Barça, it was a nightmare defeat that leaves their La Liga title dreams hanging by a thread.
Man of the Match: Alexander Sørloth (Villarreal)
Despite scoring the winner, Morales could easily have been given the nod for his late strike. But Sørloth’s two goals and constant menace throughout the game make him a worthy choice.