Spanish Champions Barcelona were held to a 2-2 draw at the El Madrigal by Villarreal on Sunday, bringing to an end their 12 game winning streak.
Ivan Rakitic and Neymar gave Barcelona a 2-0 at half lead in a first half that was sadly soured by controversial refereeing decisions but the Yellow Submarines returned after the break to draw level courtesy of Bakambu and Jeremy Mathieu’s own goal.
Barcelona were without Andres Iniesta, whose muscle knock was also enough to see him excluded from the latest Spain squad, and chose to leave out Rafinha, despite the Brazilian being given the all-clear to return from a serious knee injury, but Gerard Pique returned from his Champions League suspension against Arsenal.
Villarreal, meanwhile, made just the one change from Thursday’s goalless draw at Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League, with Manuel Trigueros replacing Tomas Pina, and they should’ve led inside the first minute through Arda Turan, whose header hit his own post and bounced across the line, before Claudio Bravo gathered.
Barcelona started of as expected, dominating possession and soon went ahead through Ivan Rakitic, who capitalised on a poorly-cleared Lionel Messi free kick and fired the ball through a wall of yellow shirts.
The visitors doubled their advantage, albeit in lamentable circumstances, as Sergio Asenjo appeared to clearly claim the ball in a one-on-one with Neymar, but referee Jose Maria Sanchez Martinez had other ideas, allowing the Brazilian to stroke a Panenka down the middle of the goalkeeper’s net.
The official also came under fire from Villarreal fans for his refusal to penalise Pique after the defender won none of the ball in a robust challenge on former teammate Denis Suarez and then appeared to use his hand to get it under control, although home Coach Marcelino was sent to the stands for protesting.
Luis Enrique’s decision to replace Gerard Pique and Arda Turan at the beginning of the restart seemingly backfired as Denis got beyond substitute Dani Alves and had a shot saved by Bravo, before Bakambu fired home the rebound for 2-1.
Barcelona then hit back on the counterattack through Neymar, who rounded two Villarreal defenders but saw his effort pushed away by Asenjo before a cross whipped into the opposing box from the right was unwittingly turned in by fellow new face Jeremy Mathieu for 2-2.
For a while, it was a case of Catalan backs against the wall as the Yellow Submarine attacked with pace and purpose, despite their eight yellow cards, although Asenjo was forced into action again, this time tipping Rakitic’s glancing header wide of the post.
The storm was soon weathered, yet Barcelona failed to take advantage as the home side’s custodian parried a cross into the path of Rakitic, but the Croat’s first-time volley was not on target while Luis Suarez sent a similar effort wide of the target in the closing stages.
Villarreal felt they should have had a penalty deep in added time when Adrian broke clear of the Barca backline and was upended in last-gasp fashion by Javier Mascherano, but the referee redeemed himself somewhat by noticing the Argentine had won the ball.