Barcelona Loses Ground On Real Madrid; Stays in Third Place.

Lionel Messi’s sublime last-minute free-kick helped Barcelona salvage a point and deny Villarreal a famous win at Estadio de la Cerámica in their La Liga match on Sunday.

Nicola Sansone fired the hosts ahead by getting on the end of Alexander Pato’s threaded pass to put Luis Enrique in the hot seat again.

Barcelona’s woes seemed to have followed them into the new year – drawing four straight matches at the tail end of 2016 and losing their first match (Copa del Rey) against Bilbao in 2017 – as Messi hit the woodwork and Barca were denied a penalty when Bruno handled a shot by the Argentina forward.

Barca remains third on the La Liga table and trail leaders and unbeaten Real Madrid by five points. Their bitter rivals defeated Granada 5-0 on Saturday.

Villarreal had full-back Jaume Costa sent off in the dying minutes of the match after a second yellow card. However, they remain fifth on the log.

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The result was damaging for Barcelona as they have played a game more than leaders Real Madrid due to the Club World Cup the UCL Champions participated in and won. And with Sevilla not looking ready to give up the second spot anytime soon, all eyes will be on Luis Enrique as this can mean Barca may end up finishing the season out of the top two position for the first time in over 10 years.

Luis Enrique is unlikely to remember his 150th game in charge of Barca for long, with his side sluggish for long periods.

Suarez remains on 99 goals for Barca after a frustrating match in which he was presented with several chances but failed to capitalise and score his landmark century goal.

Villarreal were getting ready to celebrate their first win in nine years against their opponents when Messi, who had been fouled by Bruno, found the top corner with an exquisite finish to rescue a point.

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