Villarreal, Barcelona and the game no one ever wanted to finish | Sid Lowe

Villarreal v Barcelona was something wild and wonderful, a 4-4 draw that was as exhausting as it was exhilarating

“A minute after the game, we could say a thousand barbaric things,” Vicente Iborra said, but none of them could ever express it as well as the look on his face as he stood there on the touchline trying to work out what had just happened and how. Behind him, Leo Messi hugged Santi Cazorla and, watching it, you kind of wished you could hug them too. “Peculiar,” Sergio Asenjo called it. “Mad,” Ernesto Valverde offered. “We’ve stabbed ourselves,” Iborra added. “Football’s given us quite a beating,” Javier Calleja said. Which was true, six points in three days somehow becoming just one, salvation denied, but it had given everyone else quite a night: something wild and wonderful, a 4-4 draw that was as exhausting as it was exhilarating.

Calleja scored the last time Villarreal and Barcelona drew 4-4 here, Patrick Kluivert getting a 90th-minute equaliser to come back from 3-0 and 4-3 down, back in April 2001. But even that wasn’t quite like this, the man who is now Villarreal’s manager, re-signed to rescue them 49 days after he was sacked, barely able to believe what he was watching unfold before him. “A point against Barcelona isn’t bad, but …” he shrugged. But they were this close to it being more, one player admitting that he felt “sunk”, the team heading towards the second division. And yet, it felt as if the point wasn’t really the point. Instead, there was something simpler, more primitive.

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