Goals from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez earned Barcelona a miraculous 4-4 draw at Villarreal on a wild Tuesday night at the Estadio de la Ceramica.
Holding a 2-0 advantage thanks to scores from Philippe Coutinho and Malcom, Barcelona looked to be headed to an easy win, but young striker Samu and veteran midfielder Santi Cazorla led a ferocious comeback from the hosts, who took a two-goal lead themselves and appeared on their way to a badly needed three points.
However, a late Villarreal sending off paved the way for Barcelona’s comeback, as a wonderfully-hit free-kick from Messi and a Luis Suarez strike at the death earned Barcelona the improbable point.
The draw still shaved Barcelona’s lead in the table down to eight points ahead of second-place Atletico Madrid, who just so happen to be Barcelona’s next opponent this weekend at the Camp Nou.
Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde made a number of notable changes from the team that topped Espanyol in the derby over the weekend.
Following his two-goal effort, Messi started on the bench, as did Gerard Pique for the first time this season in league play.
There were chances for both sides to start, with Luis Suarez coming close for Barcelona and Vicente Iborra forcing Barcelona stopper Marc-Andre ter Stegen into a reaction save.
But any early momentum for the hosts came to a crashing halt as some surgical passing from Barcelona led to an opening 0-1 lead. Sergi Roberto played an inch-perfect pass into Malcom, who crossed to Coutinho and the Brazilian had the easiest of redirects into net for the goal.
A critical mistake from Alvaro opened the door for Barcelona’s late surge, as his second yellow card reduced Villarreal to 10 men.
A free kick 17 metres from goal set up Messi’s score, as the Pulga paid tribute to countryman Manu Ginobili and banked in his effort off the post to close the gap to 4-3.
Then with just seconds remaining, a Barcelona corner kick drifted to Suarez and the Uruguayan could not have hit it any better, sending a low-driving shot past Asenjo and into net for the dramatic 4-4 equaliser.