Teenager Yamal helps Barcelona battle back to victory at Villarreal

Sixteen-year-old sets up opener and has big hand in Lewandowski's winner

Barcelona's Lamine Yamal celebrates after helping to set up Robert Lewandowski's winner against Villarreal. AFP
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Teenager Lamine Yamal helped Barcelona fight back to win a 4-3 thriller at Villarreal in Spain's La Liga on Sunday.

The 16-year-old forward set up Gavi's opening goal for Barcelona, hit the woodwork twice and played a key role in Robert Lewandowski's winning goal as an entertaining game finished in the visitors’ favour.

“Lamine had another great game,” Barca manager Xavi Hernandez said. “He helped us a lot, created tons of chances, and provided two assists. I was scared when I started playing but we have complete faith in our young players and believe in our La Masia [training academy]."

After he caught the eye of Xavi while playing for the club’s youth sides, Yamal became the youngest player to appear for Barcelona in April when he was 15 years, 9 months, 16 days. Last weekend, he became the youngest player to start for Barcelona in its win over Cadiz.

“Fortunately I don’t get too scared, I just go out there and play soccer, which I love to do,” Yamal said after his performance at Villarreal. “I am trying to make the most of the chances our coach gives me.”

He delivered a cross for Gavi on Sunday to head home at the far post and kick off the scoring fest in the 12th minute. Frenkie de Jong then doubled the lead three minutes later.

Villarreal roared back in style. Juan Foyth headed in a corner kick by Alex Baena in the 26th minute. Alexander Sorloth tapped in a squared pass from Alfonso Pedraza in the 40th, and Baena curled in a pass from Pedraza in the 50th to put the hosts in front 3-2.

But Yamal helped Barcelona dig in and get the win that kept them two points behind leaders Real Madrid.

Yamal went close to scoring in the 57th when he hit the post.

After substitute Ferran Torres put in his own rebound to level the score, Yamal dribbled past his marker and unleashed a low shot that goalkeeper Filip Jorgensen did well to send off his post. The rebound fell right to Lewandowski for him to push in for his first goal of the season.

“It was a crazy game and that was partly our fault,” Xavi said. “But once they went ahead 3-2, we played our best and generated lots of scoring chances. I think we could have scored even more goals.”

Updated: August 27, 2023, 8:11 PM