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It was a happier evening for Bar?a as they were 1-0 victors at Villarreal thanks to 19-year-old Sandro Ramirez’s debut goal eight minutes from time.

"It is gratifying to see the young guys score, but the most important thing is the victory," said Enrique. "We kept going until the end. Villarreal defended very well and waited for the counter-attack to cause us problems."

Bar?a completely dominated possession in the opening 45 minutes, but failed to create clear-cut chances as Sergio Asenjo parried a drive from Pedro before turning a deflected Messi free-kick onto the post. But Villarreal were nearly gifted the lead at the start of the second period as Bar?a defender Jeremy Mathieu turned Jaume Costa’s cross off the outside of his own post.

Bar?a then upped the pace after Neymar replaced Munir El Haddadi and Asenjo had to be at his best again to turn away a well-struck Messi free-kick. Yet, for all their chances, Bar?a were inches from being behind moments later when Tomas Pina struck the inside of the post and Javier Espinosa fired the rebound inches wide.

The visitors did finally make the breakthrough eight minutes from time when more fine footwork from Messi provoked another save from Asenjo, but Sandro was on hand to force the ball home from close range. There was still time for a final scare for Bar?a as Giovanni dos Santos smashed a volley off the post from a narrow angle, but Enrique’s men held on to go top of the embryonic La Liga table.

In the day’s other matches, Deportivo La Coruna drew 2-2 with Rayo Vallecano, while Elche scored late to draw 1-1 with Granada at home.

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