The unstoppable one-two punch of Neymar Jr. and Luis Suárez has become the bane of defences everywhere. The duo erupted for all three of FC Barcelona’s goals in the second-half on Sunday afternoon, flummoxing visiting Villarreal in stunning fashion and sending the Catalans to a 3–0 victory at Camp Nou.
The win hands Barça sole possession of first place in La Liga, with Real Madrid still to play their match at Sevilla later on in the evening. The loss is Villarreal’s third in La Liga this season, keeping them on 20 points, and threatens to drop them from fifth place pending the rest of the weekend’s action.
For FC Barcelona, Sunday’s game was night and day. Literally and figuratively. The first half of the late afternoon matinee was, weather-wise, sunny and warm, with tactical speculation in midfield overshadowing solid goalkeeping at both ends and a burgeoning aggressiveness in the moments before the intermission.
After the break, though, the approaching sunset brought with it cooling temperatures, both in the air and between the two teams, and a greater focus on attack, especially for Barça.
The Catalans scored on the stroke of one hour when Sergio Busquets came up with a loose ball following a Villarreal turnover in their own half and picked out Neymar on the left flank. The Brazilian collected the ball and fired low, slotting in at the far post past Villarreal goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.
Suárez made it 2–0 on a penalty kick in the 70th minute. Munir El Haddadi had broken into the area and provoked the spot kick, going down hard on a late tackle, for which Villarreal defender Jaume Costa was lucky to have stayed on the field.
But while FC Barcelona’s first two goals were the epitome of teamwork, the third and final goal of the day was a paradigm of the Neymar–Suárez show and a quintessential exhibition of technical ingenuity by Barça’s number 11.
What began as a give-and-go between the two on the left wing ended with Suárez brilliantly curling a sublime feed behind the defensive line and into the breaking Neymar, who flicked a pass to himself, up and over the lone defender left in his way, spun around, and buried the shot.
By the end of 90 minutes of play, the Yellow Submarine, as Villarreal are known, were little more than a mangled wreck lying at the bottom of the sea floor, courtesy of two-third’s of Barça’s trident, who have performed brilliantly in the absence of Lionel Messi.
The brace by Neymar gives him 11 goals in La Liga this year, most in the league. Suárez is now second on the list with nine.
With the win, the Catalans are now unbeaten in their last 15 games against Villarreal, including seven straight wins at Camp Nou across all competitions. Barça are undefeated over their last seven games since falling at Sevilla on 3 October. FC Barcelona’s next test comes in two weeks at arch-rivals Real Madrid.