Match Report: Villarreal 1-3 Barcelona: Depay and Coutinho strike late to maintain Xavi’s winning start

Barcelona's Memphis Depay celebrates his goal against Villarreal

Xavi made it back-to-back LaLiga wins following his appointment as Barcelona head coach as late goals from Memphis Depay and Philippe Coutinho secured a 3-1 win over Villarreal.

The former Barca midfielder oversaw a 1-0 win over Espanyol last weekend after taking over the reins from Ronald Koeman, but it looked like he would be denied another three points at Estadio de la Ceramica when Samuel Chukwueze cancelled out Frenkie de Jong’s opener.

Depay had other ideas, though, stroking home with two minutes remaining to spark jubilant celebrations from Xavi on the Barca bench, before Coutinho added a third from the penalty spot in stoppage time.

The result puts seventh-placed Barca seven points behind leaders Real Madrid, who have a game in hand, while Villarreal stay 12th.

Dani Parejo had been lucky to avoid a red card inside two minutes for an ugly challenge on Sergio Busquets, while Abde Ezzalzouli – making his first start for Barca – saw a header tipped onto the crossbar by Geronimo Rulli.

Depay missed two glorious opportunities and Gavi struck the post as the visitors dominated the opening 30 minutes.

Pau Torres spurned a glorious chance to open the scoring shortly after the half-hour mark, heading over an unguarded goal after Marc-Andre ter Stegen had completely missed a corner.

Barca went ahead five minutes after the interval when De Jong tapped into an empty net after Depay’s close-range flick had been saved, the goal awarded by the VAR after an initial offside flag.

Villarreal thought they had secured a point with 14 minutes remaining when Chukwueze clipped past Ter Stegen for his first LaLiga goal of the campaign.

But Depay came to Barca’s rescue, superbly bringing down a long ball, rounding Rulli and sliding in from close range in the 88th minute.

Substitute Coutinho added gloss to the scoreline in stoppage time, slotting past Rulli from the spot after he had been brought down by Juan Foyth.

What does it mean? Xavi’s immediate impact

It was not always pretty, and it required a late intervention from Depay, but Barca were good value for their second LaLiga win under Xavi.

Not only was it Barca’s first away win in LaLiga this season, it was also the first time they have won back-to-back games in the competition this term.

De Jong ends long wait

De Jong’s goal was his first in LaLiga since January against Elche, ending a run of 28 games without scoring in the competition – his longest such run since he joined the club. The Netherlands international also created three chances – more than any other Barca player.

Officials off the pace

Quite how Parejo escaped without a booking, let alone a red card, for his shocking early challenge on Busquets will remain a mystery for some time. Villarreal can have complaints of their own as well, with the officials also missing a glaring handball from Gerard Pique in the penalty area during the first half.

What’s next?

Barca host Real Betis in LaLiga on Saturday, while Villarreal face a trip to minnows Victoria in the Copa del Rey on Tuesday.

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