A miraculous goal from the midfielder with just minutes to go, followed by an own goal, gave Barça the win in a gripping climax to a game against a surprisingly daring Granada
As Barça made it five wins out of five, Valdés made a crucial save just seconds before Barça opened the scoring at the other end
It took 86 minutes for Barça to break down a surprisingly resistant Granada. An absolute cracker of a goal from Xavi finally rewarded the Catalans for their insistence, and won a match that looked to be slipping away from them. The Andalusians did a terrific job of containing the Barça onslaught, and if it hadn’t been for a terrific save from Valdés, the visitors could even have taken the lead with a mere five minutes left on the clock.
Few expected Barça to find the game as tough as it was. Rather than sit back and defend, Granada pushed forwards from the start and prevented the home side from playing their famous possession game. And as a result, Barça struggled to create serious goalscoring opportunities, only coming close twice in the first half hour. The first chance fell to Messi after a set piece in the 6th minute, and the second to Cesc, whose 22nd minute strike from the edge of the area was expertly saved by Toño.
Second half pressure
Meanwhile, Floro Flores (min 9), Mikel Rico (min 10) and Siqueira (min 30) all had chances to put the visitors ahead. The game got off to a slow start, but as half time approached, the pace became more frenetic as a new sense of urgency appeared to seep into the way Barça were playing. That increased intensity led to a stream of chances, particularly for Messi, but Granada managed to hold out until the break with the deadlock still unbroken.
After the restart, Barça started finding the depth they had been lacking in the first 45 minutes. Villa, returning to the starting line-up for the first time since his injury, Song and Alexis all had chances as Granada’s defending became more and more desperate. In the 52nd minute, Vilanova sent on Xavi and Pedro in search of a goal that was surely now just a question of time, But the as the minutes ticked by, there was increasing concern that perhaps this was simply not going to be Barcelona’s night.
The concerns increased when Adriano was injured in the 72nd minute, whereupon Vilanova sent on Tello and switched to a 3-4-3 system. But the man of the moment was Granada’s young keeper Toño, who prevented all of Messi, Cesc and Xavi from scoring from point-blank range. But just as the Barça pressure was more intense than ever, they were caught out on the counter attack, and Orellana found himself in a one-on-one with Valdés that could have changed the game if the Barça keeper hadn’t produced an extraordinary save.
Barça had no option but to throw caution to the wind, yet once again Toño came to their rescue with a tremendous save to deny Messi. But there was absolutely nothing he could do when a cracking shot from Xavi Hernández bounced off the crossbar and landed in the back of the net. As the Camp Nou breathed a sigh of relief, Barça could have extended their lead through Pedro, but eventually it was down to the omnipresent Messi to deliver the killer blow with a shot that rebounded off Borja and into his own net. Barça had suffered much more than they had expected, but it all ended 2-0, and their one hundred per cent record in La Liga remains intact.