Sandro Ramirez came off the bench to score the winner for Barcelona, as they edged out Villarreal 1-0 at El Madrigal.
With the game looking set to be a stalemate, the 19-year-old popped up to score with eight minutes remaining and preserve Barca’s perfect start.
Chances were few and far between in a match featuring sides that both kept clean sheets in their victories from the opening weekend. Despite the poor state of the pitch though, each team had very good spells in possession with Villarreal possibly edging out.
The hosts made three changes from last week’s win at Levante. This included two at the back with Mario Gaspar and Mateo Musacchio replacing Armando Gabriel Paulista and Antonio Rukavina, while Tomas Pina came in for Ikechukwu Uche.
Barca were forced into both of their changes from the 3-0 win over Elche, as Gerard Pique came into defence for the suspended Javier Mascherano and with Andres Iniesta still recovering from injury, Pedro took his place in attack.
And it was the winger who had the first real chance of the game on 14 minutes. Lionel Messi laid the ball into his path and he drew an acrobatic save out of a very agile Sergio Asenjo.
At the other end, the hosts wasted what would prove to be their most clear-cut opportunity. Barca old boy Giovani Dos Santos sent a cross over from the right that was met by Victor Ruiz, who drifted away from Dani Alves but could not connect with the ball properly at the far post sending it just over the bar.
The Yellow Submarine had their keeper to thank once again five minutes later, as he showed very sharp reflexes to tip Messi’s goal bound free-kick onto the post.
Into the second half and it was scrappy last-ditch defending that denied Luis Enrique’s men the lead midway through. Messi latched onto Alves’ long ball and crossed for Neymar, but the Brazilian was thwarted by a scrambling Ruiz on the line.
A new hero?
Neymar fired over from Alves’ cross soon after, while Pina rattled the post at the other end. But with the game fizzling out to a goalless draw, the Catalans finally broke the deadlock with eight minutes to spare.
Once again it was Neymar and Messi combined as the Argentine latched onto the former’s threaded pass. He waited before poking the ball across the face of goal through Asenjo’s legs, and substitute Sandro was on hand to apply the easy finish.
It proved to be enough to make it two wins from two for Enrique.
Barca will certainly see the result as two points gained, but it’s these kind of wins that is a sign of champions and they’ll hope to carry the momentum forward as they aim for at least a trophy this season.
Villarreal will take a lot of positives from this match despite the defeat. They played some good football and will be looking to push for the Champions League places, although they’ll be hoping their Europa League campaign doesn’t stand in their way.
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