First Division - Day 10

Barcelona 1 - Villarreal 2

Barcelona: Arnau; Puyol (Gerard 65'), Abelardo, Petit; Xavi, Cocu; Simao, Luis Enrique, Sergi (Overmars 70'); Alfonso (Dani 60'), Kluivert. 3-2-3-2.
Villarreal: Unanua; Xavi Roca, Unai, Quique Medina, Berruet, Arruabarrena; Amor (Escoda 77'), Gracia, Cagna; Víctor (Moisés 89'), Bruno Marioni (Craioveanu 72'). 5-3-2.

Team changes: Barcelona: Cocu, Alfonso, Kluivert for Gerard, Rivaldo, Dani / Villarreal: Unanua, Xavi Roca, Quique Medina, Berruet, Gracia for López Vallejo, Galván, Quique Álvarez, Escoda, Calleja.

0-1. 01. Víctor. Took advantage of slip by Puyol to nip in and beat Arnau.
1-1. 36. Cocu. Headed back across keeper from Xavi free kick on right 1-2.
58. Víctor. Picked up loose ball on edge of area and volleyed over Arnau. Report to follow.

They say in Spain that the crisis in football is a frequent user of the air-shuttle between Barcelona and Madrid, and that as one leaves one club it goes back to the other. Nothing could be more true this week, with Real Madrid back on line with a fistful of goals against Las Palmas, and Barcelona getting knocked out of the Champions League at the first stage midweek and then losing at home to minnows Villarreal at the weekend. The last time the two teams met in the Nou Camp stadium in 1998, the 'yellow submarine' set off a monumental crisis in Louis Van Gaal's side with a 1-3 victory, including two goals from Craioveanu. Nobody believed they could repeat the act but they did so with apparent ease, Víctor this time on brilliant form scoring twice for the second game in a row to torpedo their opponents without trace.

Barcelona's manager Serra Ferrer had little excuse, for although he was missing Rivaldo on international duty with Brazil, he did recover Kluivert in attack, with Overmars also back from injury on the bench coming on in the second half. Villarreal's manager Víctor Muñoz had more trouble putting together a side, and he virtually had to cobble together a new defence, with Quique Alvarez and Jorge López injured, and keeper López Vallejo pulling out at the last minute with a back strain. He also decided to change his formation for this game, reverting to a 5-3-2 (or a 3-5-2 when attacking), with reserve keeper Unanua and defender Quique Medina coming in for their first game of the season.

The first goal came in the first move of the game, with Víctor running on to a through ball as Puyol slipped on the wet grass. That left the home crowd stunned, although their spirits returned when Cocu equalised twenty minutes in to the game with a good header. Alfonso missed an open goal a few minutes later with the keeper nowhere to be seen, and that was about it in a disappointing first half. Sergi and Luis Enrique went close in the second half, but once again Víctor showed them how to do it, striking a first time volley from the edge of the area which bent away from Arnau and in off the far post. Barcelona had no reply, and the Villarreal defenders were there to stop the play by whatever means possible. Even so there was no justification for referee Bueno Grimal to get out his yellow card so many times, and he set a new record with fourteen cautions of which nine went to the visitors. Curiously though, he didn't show a second yellow to anyone, and the game finished with 22 men somehow still on the pitch.

Near the end the game descended into farce when Arruabarrena appeared to handle the ball on the line. Bueno Grimal stopped the game and pointed to the penalty spot, but after consulting with a linesman realised the ball had hit the defender on the chest and cancelled the penalty, restarting the game with a dropped ball in the Villarreal penalty area. Serra Ferrer was furious as his team had possession when the game was stopped, but the way Barcelona were playing it probably wouldn't have changed anything. Their confusion was epitomised by two incidents involving Simao, who mistook the touchline for a line a yard inside the real one which had been painted out, and both times he was penalised with a foul throw. Barcelona drop out of the top six once again, and Serra Ferrer will be lucky to still have his name on the manager's door by next weekend. Luis Fernández has already been pencilled in, with assistant coach Charlie Reixach a possible caretaker for the caretaker. We shouldn't forget Villarreal though, who are now only a point behind the 'blaugrana' in ninth place. Their football isn't pretty but it is effective, and they have taken on some good players. Next week their trials continue with a visit from Real Madrid.