Barcelona regain La Liga lead, as Sevilla are held to a draw
Defending champions Barcelona reclaimed top spot in La Liga yesterday morning (Singapore time), by overcoming a dogged Villarreal side to win 2-0 at home with goals from defender Gerard Pique and youngster Carles Alena.
Pique headed the Catalans in front in the 36th minute, connecting with a cross from the lively Ousmane Dembele, who produced another decisive display after scoring Barca's late equaliser against Atletico Madrid last week.
Villarreal are hovering above the relegation zone, but they produced an admirable display and nearly took the lead when Gerard Moreno seized on a mix-up between goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and defender Clement Lenglet but could only strike the outside of the post.
Homegrown midfielder Alena, 20, came off the bench to score his first league goal for Barca in the 87th minute and seal the win.
He raced to a through-ball from Lionel Messi and producing a confident finish.
"We completely dominated the play in the first half despite them hitting the post, but we lacked a bit of dynamism in the area but we were rewarded with Pique's goal," said Barca coach Ernesto Valverde.
"In the second half, we lacked the ball and when that happens, we suffer a lot. We gave little away because we were organised but we do not feel comfortable playing that way."
Barca lead the standings with 28 points after 14 games, while Sevilla are second on 27 after drawing 1-1 at Alaves.
Atletico Madrid are third on 25 after being held to a 1-1 draw at Girona.
Barca had dropped off the top of the table following last week's 1-1 stalemate at Atletico.
They lacked a spark against Villarreal too, badly missing the control that injured midfielder Arthur Melo has provided in recent weeks.
Record signing Philippe Coutinho struggled to make an impact and was booed by an impatient Nou Camp crowd when he was substituted in the second half. - REUTERS.