Villarreal 2-3 Barcelona: 6 Things We Learned
It was a highly emotional night as Barcelona faced off with Villarreal in La Liga play just days after former manager Tito Vilanova passed away after a long battle with throat cancer.
The Catalans went down 2-0 early but were helped out by two own goals to level the score. Lionel Messi then scored the winner in the 83rd minute to give Barcelona all three points and keep their title dreams afloat.
In this article we will take a look at six things we learned from the Barcelona comeback and what they mean for both clubs. As always, be sure to have your say in the comments section below.
*All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com.
It May Have Been Best to Postpone This Match
Sunday's victory will go down in history as one of the most emotional games in Barcelona's history. But though it was great to see the players dedicate their win to Tito Vilanova, the game probably should not have been played.
Entering the game, there was a lot of emotion on both sides. Players like Sergio Busquets were wiping tears away during the moment of silence before kickoff, while Villarreal were also put in a tough spot in playing against such a broken team.
The match should have postponed a week or rescheduled for sometime down the road. The players were not ready for this, which was clearly seen on their faces.
The players, fans and commentators found it hard to handle so many emotions. I'm sure if we were to ask the players, they would say that they were proud to play this match so soon. However, it might have been better to allow more time for grieving.
Regardless of what could or should have been, Sunday's victory was very important and brought everyone together.
Villarreal Showed Their Best and Worst Sides
A few months ago, Villarreal were fighting for a spot in next year's Champions League. The Yellow Submarine were fresh off of promotion and looked to take the Primera division by storm.
Understandably, Villarreal began to lose pace and slip away from the top of the La Liga table. Due to a thin squad it was always going to be difficult to keep their form going, and they eventually fell several spots.
The club have been fighting ever since to get back into the running for the fourth-place spot in the table, yet now only the Europa League is a realistic goal. However, fans finally got to see the better side of the Yellow Submarine again on Sunday night.
Villarreal put up an intense fight against Barcelona with their own fans watching on. Two goals from Cani and Manu Trigueros had El Madrigal rocking, and dangerous moments from the likes of Giovani dos Santos had fans believing anything could happen.
Yet the worst of Villarreal was just as prevalent during their battle with Barcelona.
While leading the reigning La Liga champions 2-0, Villarreal managed to score two own goals to put the Catalans back in the fight. But that wasn't the worst aspect of the match.
During the game, some Villarreal fans were heard shouting racist remarks at Dani Alves, and someone even threw a banana at him, per The Metro.
Though there will likely be some form of discipline shown to the fans, Alves simply picked up the banana and ate it.
Barcelona Refuse to Quit
At this point in the season it is common for apathy to set in and for struggling clubs to begin to fall apart. That just isn't the case with this Barcelona team.
The Catalans entered the match trailing the top of the table by seven points, a distance that will be nearly impossible to make up. Though Barcelona could pull off a miracle to win the league, it just doesn't seem like that will happen.
Regardless of the point gap in the table, Barcelona entered this match with an unwillingness to give up. Even after going down 2-0 on the road the Catalans continued to fight against the odds.
Their relentlessness eventually paid off as La Blaugrana as they won the match, but their fighting spirit showed just how much belief they still have in themselves. Though the season is likely already decided, the Catalans won't go down without a fight.
El Madrigal Isn't the Fortress It Used to Be
Throughout the rich history of Villarreal, El Madrigal has been a fortress and a stadium that always gives visitors trouble. That just doesn't seem to be the case anymore.
In 18 home games this season, Villarreal have only managed to win eight times. The Yellow Submarine have now lost four times at the historic stadium, which could be the reason for their drop in the table.
At the beginning of the season El Madrigal was seen as the the site that would once again bring Villarreal to the forefront of Spanish football glory. The team performed very well in front of their own fans, yet as the season went on they began to drop far too many points.
When Villarreal look back on this season and wonder how they went from fighting for fourth to nearly missing out on Europe altogether, they will have to look no further than their performances at their own sanctuary.
Lionel Messi to the Rescue Again
Lionel Messi still doesn't look like his normal self, but nothing can keep quality at bay. While Barcelona struggled heavily throughout the game, it was again the Argentine who proved to be the difference-maker.
Messi managed to complete 89 percent of his passes while also winning five dribbles. He also had 86 touches on the ball, which showed that he was more involved on Sunday than he has been in recent weeks.
Villarreal made things very difficult for their Catalan visitors. The Yellow Submarine defended well and kept Barcelona in front of the back line, but nothing would keep Messi from finally breaking the through.
Just when it seemed like the match would end in a draw, Messi put the final touches on a hard-fought and emotional victory. He's won games for Barcelona plenty of times, but his goal on Sunday may have been more important than it seemed after such a tough week in Catalonia.
This Win Was for Tito
Put everything aside, including the title race. This match and this victory was about so much more than simply football. This was a night to honor a man who touched so many lives, and Barcelona will dedicate the victory to his memory.
Tito Vilanova fought his battle against cancer admirably and without complaint. He always had a smile on his face and was never afraid to stand for what he thought was right.
Vilanova's passing happened at a time when friends and family least expected it. The last few days have been emotional for everyone in Barcelona and thousands around the world as well. Yet when Barcelona took the field on Sunday, everyone's thoughts were on the former manager.
This win was for Tito. Barcelona's fighting passion and the fact that they never quit trying was a testament to a man who never once gave up. Life is a lot bigger than football, and the game has lost a great man in Francesc "Tito" Vilanova.
The thoughts and prayers from those at Bleacher Report go out to the Vilanova family, and we send our deepest and most humble support and love to his wife and two children.