Late goals from Memphis Depay and Philippe Coutinho delivered Barcelona a 3-1 victory over Villarreal in La Liga on Saturday night at the Estadio de La Ceramica.

The guests took a lead early in the second half through Frenkie de Jong, only for Villarreal to battle back and find a leveller through Samu Chukwueze. Just when it looked like the Yellow Submarine were poised to find a winner, Memphis turned the tables by taking advantage of a Villarreal mistake and scoring the decisive goal. Coutinho would then convert a stoppage-time penalty to nail down a second straight league win for new boss Xavi Hernandez.

Xavi handed out the first-ever start to youngster Abde, who slotted into the attack with Gavi and Memphis, while in the back it was three-man centre-backs with Ronald Araujo, Gerard Pique and Eric Garcia.

There was plenty to talk about in the opening minutes with a trio of chances for Barcelona and controversial no-calls from referee Soto Grado, who spared Dani Parejo of a potential red card for a rough tackle on Sergio Busquets and a potential Pique handball in the area.

One of those Barcelona chances was for Memphis, who then missed a clear-cut opportunity later on in the half, while Yeremi Pino and Pedraza had chances that fell by the wayside.

Just like in last week’s win over Espanyol, the Barcelona goal came shortly after the re-start, as a Jordi Alba cross glanced off of Memphis and reached the stabbing foot of De Jong, who had an easy tap-in. Initially ruled offside, the play went to VAR and the goal was confirmed for a 1-0 Barcelona lead.

Villarreal slowly began to respond, so Xavi went to his bench, bringing on Ousmane Dembele for Abde, followed by Oscar Mingueza for Alba and then Philippe Coutinho for Nico.

The momentum was with Villarreal and sure enough, the home side would get their equaliser as some slack defending allowed Villarreal substitute Samuel Chukwueze to swoop in and hit a first-time shot past goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to make it 1-1.

Villarreal looked the likelier side to find a winner and Danjuma nearly did just that with a right-footed shot that had Ter Stegen beat, but instead slipped just wide of the post.

But against the run of play Memphis would sneak in and grab a late winner for the Catalans when a long punt upfield from Ter Stegen was headed back by Villarreal’s Pervis Estupinan, allowing the Dutch striker to pounce and ultimately sweep in a shot to deliver Barcelona a 2-1 advantage.

A stoppage-time foul from Juan Foyth on Coutinho in the Villarreal area resulted in a penalty and the Brazilian confident stroked home the spot-kick, polishing off the 3-1 scoreline.


Courtesy: MARCA

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