Barca fail to wrap up title
MADRID: Barcelona must wait another week to clinch the Spanish title after Jose Llorente scored a dramatic 90th-minute equaliser as Villarreal gatecrashed the party with a 3-3 draw at Camp Nou on Sunday.
Barcelona were on course to win their 19th title in front of their fans when they held a 3-1 lead, but Villarreal scored twice in the final 12 minutes to put the celebrations on hold.
Barcelona need just one point from the final three matches, with the next league match at Real Mallorca, to win their first league title since 2006.
Real Madrid's 3-0 defeat at Valencia on Saturday meant Barcelona could have won the title in front of their own fans and they came so close.
"It is a real shame we couldn't celebrate the title with all the people who came to the stadium today," admitted Barca coach Pep Guardiola.
"We did the same thing (scoring a late goal) at Stamford Bridge (in the Champions League semi-final) with (Andres) Iniesta and today it was Llorente.
"We have to pick ourselves up quickly, put a smile on our faces and prepare for the Kings Cup final on Wednesday."
A 28th goal of the season from Samuel Eto'o and a Dani Alves free-kick built on Seydou Keita's opener as Barcelona held a 3-1 advantage at half-time.
However, Eric Abidal was sent off for Barcelona late on after conceding a penalty which Matias Fernandez converted and the hosts were hit with the sucker punch in stoppage time as Llorente scored his second goal.
Barcelona fans were understandably disappointed and must now wait for the title while the players need to concentrate on Wednesday's Kings Cup final against Athletic Bilbao at the Mestalla Stadium.
Andres Iniesta will miss the game after suffering an injury to his right thigh and Barcelona will hope it is not serious enough to rule him out of the Champions League final against Manchester United on May 27.
The Barca players were on a high after thumping Real 6-2 last Saturday and then edging past Chelsea in their Champions League semi-final and Guardiola resisted the temptation to rest stars for the domestic cup final.
Barca got off to a flying start when Keita saw his deflected shot loop in on 12 minutes.
Villarreal, still without injured captain Marcos Senna, equalised through Llorente on 22 minutes after Yaya Toure lost possession.
Eto'o restored Barcelona's lead after 36 minutes and Alves, suspended for the Champions League final, curled in a free-kick seconds before half-time to make it 3-1.
Frenchman Abidal was sent off for the second time in a week, after being dismissed against Chelsea, for giving away a spot-kick and Fernandez converted to ensure a tense final 12 minutes.
Llorente then took advantage of the nerves to equalise and spoil the party. Barca now have 103 goals for the season and are just four from equalling Real's all-time record of 107 set back in 1990.
The champions-elect have amassed 86 points and have three games to try to overtake Real's all-time points record of 92 set back in 1997, although there were 42 games then instead of the current 38.
For Villarreal the point leaves them three points adrift of fourth-placed Valencia in the Champions League race.
Atletico Madrid moved a point behind Valencia with a 3-2 comeback win over Espanyol with Villarreal old boy Diego Forlan scoring a sensational 90th minute winner.
Atletico had been reduced to 10 men with the dismissal of Luis Perea and trailed 2-0, but came storming back with Kun Aguero scoring and Forlan grabbing a brace to take his season's tally to 27 - just one behind Eto'o.
"We are always capable of scoring goals," said Forlan. "Our destiny is in our own hands but that is also the case with Valencia."
Valencia and Atletico face each other next weekend at the Vicente Calderon in a Champions League decider.
Espanyol saw their run of four straight wins come to an end and they are not safe yet lying four points above the drop zone.