Barcelona Suffers Late Collapse in Thriller Against Villarreal, Slips 10 Points Behind Real Madrid

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In a dramatic turn of events, Barcelona faced a devastating 5-3 defeat against Villarreal, conceding two goals in stoppage time and falling further behind in the La Liga title race. The thrilling encounter showcased both teams’ offensive prowess but exposed Barcelona’s defensive vulnerabilities once again.

Villarreal took an early 2-0 lead, only to witness Barcelona’s spirited comeback with three goals in a 12-minute span, putting the visitors ahead 3-2 by the 72nd minute. However, defensive lapses proved costly for Barcelona as Goncalo Guedes equalized on a counterattack in the 84th minute. Striker Alexander Sorloth, instrumental in setting up two goals, secured the winner in stoppage time, leaving Barcelona stunned. José Morales added to Barcelona’s misery, sealing the 5-3 victory for Villarreal.

Barcelona, seeking a La Liga rebound after its Copa del Rey elimination by Athletic Bilbao, now faces a substantial setback. Real Madrid’s 2-1 comeback win against Las Palmas, despite missing top scorer Jude Bellingham, widened the gap to 10 points, pushing Barcelona down to third place.

Head coach Xavi expressed his disappointment, acknowledging that the team’s mistakes were the primary reason for the defeat. “We lost this game because of our mistakes. Today is difficult to digest for me as a coach but also for my players, who are all feeling really bad,” said Xavi.

The match saw Gerard Moreno opening the scoring for Villarreal near halftime, followed by Ilias Akhomach doubling the lead after João Cancelo’s defensive error. Barcelona fought back, with Ilkay Gundogan and substitute Pedri González contributing to a turnaround, but defensive frailties, including an own goal by Eric Baily, proved detrimental.

Barcelona’s defense, already missing the injured goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, has faced challenges throughout January, including a 4-1 defeat to Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup and a 4-2 loss at Bilbao in the Copa del Rey. Midfielder Frenkie de Jong expressed frustration, stating, “This cannot happen to an elite team.”

João Cancelo took responsibility for the defensive struggles, calling it a “disaster” and acknowledging it as the worst 45 minutes of his career.

The loss leaves Barcelona grappling with defensive issues and facing an uphill battle to close the gap in the La Liga standings. The team’s resilience will be tested in the coming fixtures as they aim to regain momentum in the title race.

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