Barcelona extend lead to 9 points
Madrid: Barcelona extended their lead at the top of La Liga to nine points over Atletico Madrid despite blowing a two-goal advantage to draw 2-2 at Villarreal yesterday. Real Madrid closed to within 10 points of Barca in third ahead of the meeting between the two sides in two weeks, as Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema all scored in a 4-0 win over Sevilla. Meanwhile, Valencia boss Gary Neville was called a “donkey” and urged “to go now” by the club’s fans after losing 2-0 at home to Celta Vigo.
Ivan Rakitic and a controversial Neymar penalty had Barca on course for a 13th consecutive La Liga win before half-time. Yet, Villarreal were more than worthy of a point and got their reward after the break through Cedric Bakambu and Jeremy Mathieu’s own goal.
“It is a positive result for us,” said Barca boss Luis Enrique.
“It is a positive round of fixtures for us. One less (to go) and one point closer to our objectives.”
Villarreal’s bright start took Barca by surprise at El Madrigal as they hit the woodwork inside the first minute when a Manu Trigueros effort was turned towards his own goal by Arda Turan.
Yet, the visitors still struck first with some fortune as Lionel Messi’s free-kick ricocheted off Luis Suarez and fell perfectly into the path of Rakitic to rifle home.
Villarreal were then furious when coach Marcelino was expelled from the touchline for his protests after Gerard Pique escaped a second yellow card for a clear handball after just 23 minutes. And worse was to come for the hosts when referee Jose Maria Sanchez Martinez pointed to the spot despite Sergio Asenjo clearly playing the ball as Neymar tried to round the goalkeeper. Neymar put Barca’s recent troubles from the spot behind him to dink home the penalty for his 27th goal of the season. Pique was replaced by Mathieu early in the second period as Enrique looked to ensure his best defender was not suspended for the game against Madrid just after the international break -Sport24