Barcelona move five clear of Real Madrid

Madrid, Dec 15: Brazilian striker Neymar continued to win the hearts of the Barcelona fans as he scored his side’s both goals in a hard-fought 2-1 win over a Villarreal side in the BBVA Primera Liga football.

Saturday night’s win moves Barcelona five points clear or Real Madrid who earlier in the day could only draw 2-2 away to Osasuna, reports Xinhua.

Barcelona coach Tata Martino made several changes to the side which had beaten Celtic 6-1 in midweek. Jordi Alba, Cesc Fabrigas, Marc Bartra and Alex song among those drafted in to face a Villarreal side without key midfielders, Bruno Soriano and Cani.

Song was playing in a more advanced role than he has to date for Barcelona and looked comfortable in a position more in common to that he enjoyed at Arsenal. He was close to opening the scoring when he volleyed against the post from a narrow angle after just 6 minutes.

Barcelona had around 75 percent of the ball in a first half which was almost exclusively played in the Villarreal half. Although chances were few and far between against a side with four in defence and five players spread across midfield with only former Barcleona youngster, Geovani Dos Santos in attack.

It needed a touch of fortune for Barcelona to open the scoring as referee Iglesias Vilanova awarded a penalty on the half hour as Mario Gaspar needlessly handled Alba’s first time cross.

Neymar stepped up and coolly sent Sergio Asenjo the wrong way from the penalty spot.

Alexis Sanchez then produced a fine save from Asenjo as Iniesta’s deflected shot fell kindly for him in front of goal, but the keeper got down well to his left to make the block.

From having the game under control at the break, Barcelona found themselves having to get back on top after Mateo Musacchio headed Villarreal back level following a 48th minute corner and for a while Villarreal looked as if they had Barcelona losing their shape.

However, the introduction of Xavi Hernandez into the action saw Barcelona again take control and after a couple of near misses Neymar’s second of the game decided the result.

Cesc floated the ball in for Alexis to control and leave the Brazilian with the simplest of finishes to beat Asenjo, who then did well to deny Iniesta, whose volley had looked bound for the bottom corner.

With Barcelona back in control and pressing high up the field, Neymar was inches off completing his second hat-trick in just four days, but his late shot flicked off the top of the crossbar, but with 10 goals and 10 assists since his arrival this summer, it is clear the Camp Nou has a new hero.

IANS