Following the team’s stunning 5-3 loss to Villarreal in La Liga on Saturday, which wrecked their championship defense, Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez said he would step down at the end of the current campaign.
The pressure was on Xavi’s defending champions in third place after Real Madrid’s late 2-1 victory at Las Palmas lifted them two points clear of Girona at the top of the league.
Villarreal had a two-goal lead thanks to strikes from Ilias Akhomach and Gerard Moreno in a close contest before Barcelona struck back.
The hosts took the lead thanks to goals from Ilkay Gundogan and Pedri, followed by Eric Bailly heading into his own net.
Nevertheless, Barcelona fell 10 points behind rivals Real Madrid as Goncalo Guedes scored in the 84th minute and Alexander Sorloth and Jose Luis Morales scored goals in stoppage time.
“From June 30 I will not continue as Barca coach … as a Barca fan, I think the club needs a change of dynamic,” Xavi told the media.
As a club man, I believe that leaving would be best for me. I’ll give it everything I’ve got for the final four months; I think the season will be terrific and I hope the dynamic shifts.”
For Villarreal, goals disallowed for Alex Baena and Moreno preceded the latter’s fine strike from Sorloth’s cut-back to break the deadlock.
At their makeshift home at the Olympic Stadium, frustrated fans whistled Barcelona as the players hobbled in for halftime.
A mistake by Cancelo allowed Akhomach to sprint in, round Inaki Pena, and fire home, giving Barca a silly second goal. The Catalans then retaliated.
After an hour, Gundogan struck brilliantly from the edge of the box, Pedri equalised with a drive eight minutes later, and Bailly headed a free kick from Gundogan into his own net.
But Barcelona’s defence, which was far from flawless when they won the championship the previous year, was breached once more.
Winger Guedes was fed by Sorloth, and he quickly fired a shot past Pena and into the far corner.
Santi Comesana’s elbow stoppage of Gundogan’s cross in the ninetieth minute gave Barcelona a penalty kick, but the referee overturned it following a VAR review, infuriating the home crowd.
To a television camera, Xavi angrily cried, “A disgrace” was the decision to withdraw the penalty.
Even worse was to come when Morales added a late fifth goal to compound Barcelona’s misery, and Sorloth finished from close range to put Villarreal ahead.
It was also Villarreal’s first victory over Barcelona in twenty-one matches as a coach and their first win in five games across all competitions.
“It’s turning out to be a tough season and the fans deserved something like this,” Moreno remarked.