Barcelona’s poor start to 2017 continued as they lost further ground on Real Madrid at the top of La Liga despite a sensational last minute Lionel Messi free-kick salvaging a 1-1 draw at Villarreal on Sunday.
The Spanish champions lost their opening game of the year at Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey on Thursday and now trail Real by five points having also played a game more.
Italian forward Nicola Sansone looked to have handed Villarreal a first win over Barca since 2008, but Messi’s late intervention denied the hosts on the day they announced a sponsorship deal to rename El Madrigal the Ceramic Stadium.
A draw leaves Villarreal still in fifth, a point adrift of Atletico Madrid in the final Champions League place. “It can’t be a positive analysis of the game because we needed the three points and I think we did enough to deserve the three points,” Barca boss Luis Enrique said.
However, Enrique insisted Barca remain very much in the title hunt despite their chances now depending on a Madrid collapse in the second half of the season.
“There is still half the season to go and I am sure we will have the chance to fight for the league,” he added.
“The only chance we will have to fight for the title, though, is by getting back to winning soon. To keep playing like this but with a different result.” Barca dominated possession throughout, but struggled to create clear-cut chances against the tightest defence in La Liga.