Neymar stepping up to make light of Messi absence

With five goals in a week, the Brazilian has helped Barcelona put their recent blip in form behind them and the Catalans are now five points clear of Real Madrid in La Liga
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

No more Neymar in 2013. Barcelona's Brazilian forward will miss the Catalans' La Liga clash at Getafe next weekend after he picked up his fifth booking of the season in his side's 2-1 win over Villarreal on Saturday. But before that, the 21-year-old once again made the difference in the continued absence of Lionel Messi.

As said with increased regularity of late, this was not vintage Barca, but boss Gerardo Marino was pleased to see his side come through another tricky test without their star man. As Messi continues his recovery from a troublesome hamstring problem in Argentina, Neymar was there to round off a wonderful week with two more crucial strikes.

"This is the victory which satisfies me most," Martino said afterwards. "We miss Messi and our rivals are happy when he is not playing. We don't only miss him when we lose, we always miss him. And if he had been here, we would have played better."
Real Madrid started strongly on Saturday but couldn't cope with Osasuna's aerial threat and found themselves two goals down late in the first half. And to add insult to injury, Sergio Ramos received his 18th red card as a Madrid player before the break.

Isco's goal just before half-time gave the visitors hope of a revival and Pepe levelled late in the game to snatch a point which, in the context of the match, was not a bad result.

Ancelotti was happy at how his players battled back, but was angry at the performance of official Carlos Clos Gomez for the decision to send off Ramos and his failure to award a penalty for a foul by Alejandro Arribas on Luka Modric (which could also have brought the Osasuna man a second yellow card).

"One of the Ramos cards wasn't even a foul and the penalty on Modric was clear," goalkeeper Diego Lopez said afterwards. "Those decisions conditioned the game. With the score in their favour, it halted our comeback."

It may well have, and the draw means Madrid are now five points behind Barca at the top of La Liga.
For the moment, however, he is not, and Barca must win however they can. For the second match in a row, Neymar provided the inspiration. Following his maiden hat-trick for the Catalan club on Wednesday against Celtic in a 6-1 Champions League win, the Brazilian hit a double for the first time in La Liga on Saturday to claim all three points for the Catalans.

Back on the left this time as Cesc Fabregas returned from his midweek suspension, the 21-year-old opened the scoring from the penalty spot following a contentious call by referee Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva, who pointed to the spot after Jordi Alba's cross struck Manolo Gaspar's right hand. "I'd like us to get penalties like that," Villarreal coach Marcelino Garcia Toral complained afterwards.

His side equalised through Mateo Musacchio, when the centre-back outmuscled opposite number Marc Bartra to head home from a corner which Barca should have dealt with early in the second half, but Neymar was on hand to tap in the winner after good work by Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez (who had both earlier missed good chances) to make it 2-1.

The Brazilian then set up Pedro for a good chance which the Spain forward flashed into the side netting from an angle and rasped a fierce drive onto the crossbar himself following a darting run and one-two with Sergi Roberto late on which so nearly brought him a second straight hat-trick.

The 21-year-old's memorable night was only soured by the yellow card he picked up for taking a corner too quickly in the closing stages. "I don't know what happened, I don't understand it," he said afterwards. "I didn't do anything wrong."

It was Neymar's fifth booking in La Liga and means he will miss the trip to Getafe next weekend, while he is also likely to sit out the Copa del Rey clash at home to Segunda B side Cartagena in midweek as Barca lead 4-1 from the away leg.

On the evidence of the last two games, he too will be missed.

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