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Villarreal stuns Barca: Madrid takes Liga lead

Barcelona's title defence was derailed as Villarreal romped to a sensational 5-3 victory, leaving coach Xavi Hernandez to take responsibility.

Barcelona's title defense was derailed as Villarreal romped to a sensational 5-3 victory in La Liga on Saturday with three late goals. Real Madrid moved two points clear at the top of the league with a late 2-1 win at Las Palmas, putting pressure on Xavi Hernandez's defending champions in third place.

Gerard Moreno and Ilias Akhomach put Villarreal two goals ahead before Barcelona fought back. Ilkay Gundogan and Pedri struck before Eric Bailly headed into his own net to give the hosts the lead. However, Barcelona was left 10 points adrift of rivals Madrid after Goncalo Guedes fired home in the 84th minute, followed by stoppage-time strikes from Alexander Sorloth and Jose Luis Morales.

Xavi Hernandez took responsibility for the loss, stating, "I am the responsible one. We have to change the dynamic, it makes La Liga very hard for us." The team's morale was low, and the club has come out of worse situations.

Barcelona was whistled by disgruntled supporters at their temporary home at the Olympic Stadium as they trudged in for half-time. Xavi made a triple change at the break, which fired the team up, but they conceded a second goal after a bad mistake allowed Akhomach to score.

Barcelona's defense, a far cry from the watertight back-line which led them to the title last season, was pulled apart again. Sorloth fed Guedes, who flashed a strike past Pena and into the far corner. Barcelona was awarded a penalty in the 90th minute but the referee cancelled it after a VAR review, leaving the hosts furious.

Xavi yelled into a television camera that the decision to revoke the penalty was "a disgrace." Worse was to come, with Sorloth finishing from close range to put Villarreal ahead and Morales rubbing salt in the wound with a late fifth, with Barcelona in total disarray.

It was Villarreal's first win in five games in all competitions and their coach Marcelino's first ever against Barcelona in 21 matches.

Real Madrid secured a late victory at Las Palmas to send them top. Las Palmas took the lead early in the second half, but Madrid came back with Vinicius Junior leveling before substitute Tchouameni's winner, on his birthday.

Madrid were without leading goalscorer Jude Bellingham, suspended. Promoted Las Palmas, eighth, have exceeded expectations under former Barcelona reserves coach Francisco Garcia Pimienta, and for large periods they gave Madrid as good as they got.

It was a tight clash between the division's best two defenses but the stalemate was broken early in the second half. Munoz finished a neat counter-attack before Vinicius leveled after a fine Eduardo Camavinga pass.

Real coach Carlo Ancelotti, chasing a winner, sent on Turkish attacker Arda Guler for his La Liga debut and match-winner Tchouameni. The French midfielder netted only his second goal for the club with a superb header from Toni Kroos' corner with six minutes remaining.

Madrid have been taking full advantage of dead ball situations, with this just the latest in a string of goals from corners they have scored this season.

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