Luis Enrique's men weren't at their blistering best and had Lionel Messi to thank for an equalizing goal that at least allowed them to avoid a damaging defeat at Estadio De la Ceramica.
The Argentine scored his 23th goal of the season immediately after normal regulation time to cancel out Nicola Sansone's opener but the champions failure to convert their chances at goal meant their wait for first win in 2017 goes on.
Lionel Messi's 90th minute sublime free kick saw Barcelona claim a draw at Estadio de la Ceramica to Villarreal but the Blaugranes were left ultimately disappointed.
Looking to move on from their demoralizing 2-1 defeat away to Athletic Bilbao Wednesday night, Barcelona took on the yellow Marine in an important primers division clash.
On paper, having won 10 out of 14 previous meetings at El Madrigal, Barcelona arrived as heavy favorites but were unable to make it count.
The team news......
Luis Enrique made three changes to his lineup, from their loss to Bilbao with Javier Macherano, Lucas Digne and Andre Homes in the starting XI as jordi Alba and Samuel Umtiti were dropped to the bench.
The first half....
As expected, Barcelona dominated possession in the opening stages as spirited Villarreal sat back looking to break whenever possible but the attacking trio couldn't break them down and the two teams went into the break level.
It was Neymar who had the first chance at goal, needing Sergio Asenjo to Make a Strong save.
Side however did trouble Barcelona defense in the opening stages with bold counter attacking moves with Pato and Jonathan dos Santo at the heart of their good work.
The hosts reminded Barcelona of their own threat in attack, Jonathan dos Santos steered a volley over the crossbar.
Within seconds, Dos Santos again looked certain to score from close range but a last ditch tackle from Lucas Digne blocked the goal-bound strike.
Neymar did powered a right footed strike just wide from 20yards out having impressively forced open a Space to.
Half chances continued to come with Lucho's side. Barcelona having 70% of possession before the interval but the score remained goalless when the sides returned to their dressing rooms.
The second half..
There was no change for the away team when they reemerged.
There was no change for the away team when they reemerged.
The home side made a breakthrough in the 50th minute of the match as they launched a quick counterattack with pato sliding a super pass into Sansone who finds the back of the net. Ter Stegen could do nothing to stop it.
There was a moment of real controversy as a strike from Messi on the edge of the box was clearly and intentionally blocked by the outstretched arm of Bruno Soriano but the referee failed to award the spot kick.
But Neymar almost restored parity within five minutes, when he was denied from close range by Asenjo after a well worked free kick before Messi saw an effort agonising came back off thee inside of the post with Asenjo beaten.
Barça seemed like they were out of luck for the evening as Soriano again handled in the box as Denis Suárez attempted to wriggle through the opposition’s defence but the referee was again uninterested in strong claims from the Catalans.
Luis Enrique men refused to give it up, however in the last minute of normal time, a free-kick for Barça on the edge of the box was perfectly dispatched by Messi to save Barca from what could have been damaging defeat.
This was another display in which the Catalans looked a shadow of themselves, a shadow of the team that won the treble in 2014-15. Instead this looked like a similar display to the ones they put in during their down-spell last season, when they nearly threw away their lead in La Liga and were eliminated from the Champions League.
The pressure is on and with criticism quick to follow performances like this, Luis Enrique has already explained that these are the negative sides of the game which might cause him to leave in the summer when his contract is up.
Nobody in the side is playing particularly well, some players look tired, others just out of form.
Lucho's squad are now trailing league leaders Real Madrid by 5 points following this weekend results with second placed Sevilla 1 point clear in the battle for the league title.
POST MATCH REACTIONS:
Luis Enrique felt his side were unfortunate not to leave with the win after throwing everything at the hosts and praised his players for their efforts:
“The team deserved more, we deserved to win, but football is not always fair,” the Asturian coach said after the game.
“Villarreal are a team that try to play, they have quality players. They know their style of play well, with and without the ball.”
“We knew about the difficult of the game against Villarreal, but we deserved to win. I have nothing more to say to my players, we played a great game.”
“The same feelings that I had in Bilbao, even better in fact. We created many chances against the team who has conceded the fewest goals in La Liga, although we were not as accurate as we could have been in the final metres.”
“There is plenty of the league still to play, we will definitely be fighting for it. We must continue improving and be even stronger to fix this form. The hardest thing in football is to score goals.”
Sergio Busquets admitted that the team “deserved more”. “It was clear that at certain moments we did not have that luck, but that is football,” he added.
Despite not being able to claim all three points, the Barça number 5 is convinced that the team can turn things around. “We will not give and we will keep fighting. On a collective level the team is fine but it is a shame that two points slipped away,” he revealed.
Below more post-game reaction from Sergio Busquets’ team mates.
“We have dropped two points and there is a long way to go. Today we played really well on a general level. We have the feeling that we could have won.”
“It’s unfair because we did everything to win. We had a lot of chances and we should have taken the lead.”
“We have to keep working. That’s football, it’s about runs and the whole team has to keep working to turn things around.”
“We should have won, we played a very good game.”
“Today the team deserved a lot more, not only for the number of chances created but for the way we played throughout the game.”
“This team has always shown that it will fight until the end. There is no time to rue (the result).”
“We clearly deserved the victory, because we were better than the opposition.”
“The team played a very calm game from the first to the last minute. But in the end it was not meant to be.”
“We will continue trying. The league is not over and we will fight until the end.”