First Division - Day 9

Barcelona 1 - Villarreal 0

Barcelona: Bonano; Gabri, Puyol, De Boer, Fernando Navarro; Mendieta (Saviola 65'), Xavi, Cocu (Reiziger 85'), Motta (Overmars 58'); Riquelme; Kluivert. 4-4-1-1.
Villarreal: Reina; Belletti, Ballesteros, Unai, Arruabarrena; Guayre (Aranda 78'), Marcos Senna, Josico (Quique Medina 67'), Jorge López (Berruet 58'); Víctor, Palermo. 4-4-2.

Team changes: Barcelona: Motta for Saviola / Villarreal: Guayre for Quique Alvarez.

1-0. 75. Riquelme (penalty). After Saviola was pulled down by Ballesteros.

Barcelona struggled to beat Villarreal, running out 1-0 winners thanks to a second half penalty from Riquelme. The East coast side have always been a thorn in the side of the Catalans, winning two of their three visits to the Nou Camp, and Van Gaal decided to play it safe, switching to four at the back and leaving Saviola on the bench from the outset. There was some controversy over the goalkeeper position too, with under 21 international Víctor Valdés refusing to drop back down to the B team and being suspended by the club pending investigation after failing to turn up for training.

The visitors almost caught their hosts out in the opening minutes when Jorge López shot just wide, but after that they hardly troubled Bonano. Reina was busy though at the other end on his return to the ground where he played last season, confidently catching a well struck Mendieta free kick and saving well from Xavi and Kluivert. However either side of half time the referee waved away two appeals for a penalty, and although the first by Bonano on Palermo was very doubtful, Puyol's scything tackle on Víctor after the break looked like a clear foul.

A few minutes later though the visitors were left with ten men after Unai picked up a second booking for clipping Kluivert on the ankle as he ran through on goal. It was the young Spanish international's second red card in the league and his third of the season, and Van Gaal took advantage soon afterwards to bring on Overmars and then Saviola. In the meantime though, Xavi hit the bar with a free kick following Unai's foul, and sent another shot over the bar in Barcelona's next attack.

The introduction of Saviola in particular was to prove the turning point though, and the young striker won a penalty when Ballesteros pulled him down. Riquelme completed the job, and Saviola almost made it two with a shot from outside of the area near the end which Reina just tipped over the bar. Barcelona had the three points in the bag though, and Barça are pending Sunday's games they are a point behind Real Madrid in fourth place. Villarreal fall to their second one goal defeat in a row, and they could find themselves in to the bottom three if results go against them on Sunday.