Barcelona were in need of a hero at home Saturday against Villarreal. Who else but Neymar?
Continuing his already impressive start in Spain, the 21-year-old Brazilian sensation was at his best when his squad needed it. He scored two goals, which were all Barcelona needed in a tight, 2-1 win that was far from secure until the final whistle.
ESPN SportsCenter certainly took notice of Neymar's recent scoring explosion:
NEYMAR! NEYMAR! After a hat trick Wednesday, the Barcelona striker has net a pair today vs Villareal. Five goals in the last four days.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 14, 2013
He can thank Villarreal defender Mario Martinez for the first one. In the 30th minute, Martinez committed a hand ball in the box after his side was forced to play defense for nearly all of the first half.
In a position typically reserved for injured Lionel Messi, Neymar stepped up confidently at the penalty slot and watched the goalkeeper dive right before delivering a sure finish to the bottom left corner.
That was all the success Barcelona's offense had early on, however. And when Villarreal netted an equalizer early in the second half, La Blaugrana called on their young sensation once again.
Some 20 minutes later, Barcelona's attack finally found a crease. Alexis Sanchez broke away in a sprint to the goal, and found trusty Neymar waiting right in front of the net. Sanchez connected with the Brazilian, and Barcelona was on top for good.
The young star broke out in a moment when the club desperately needed it. With nothing working on offense, Neymar found a way to impact the scoreline enough to secure three points for his squad.
As Barcelona was proving to be uncharacteristically unsuccessful on offense, Neymar took matters into his own hands. When he found a seam, he was shooting.
He notched three shots on goal—two more than Villarreal's entire team.
However, it is important to note that one of his goals was a fortunate penalty, and the other one came thanks to a splendid assist from Sanchez.
So while he made the difference in the game, it was far from an individual domination.
Messi continues a long injury absence and it has made its presence—or absence—felt on Barcelona's offense. But as long as Neymar continues improving and filling that void, Barcelona will be just fine.