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FC Barcelona had to wait until the start of the second half to break down a stubborn Granada backline which sealed a vital three points on a landmark occasion at the Camp Nou.
Rafinha’s acrobatic effort was enough to take home all three points which shoots Barça up to second place in the league in what was the 1,500th game at Camp Nou.
With 16 points and 16 places in the table separating the two sides before kick-off, many expected Barça to blitz the side who had not managed a win in their opening nine rounds of the season. However, the hosts were forced to be patient to break down a typically defensive and robust Lucas Alcaraz side.
A long diagonal from Mascherano eventually unlocked the defence which set Suárez into the clear but by the time the Uruguayan had shimmied inside his man, backup had regathered to help stub out the attack.
It took until 35 minutes to force Granada keeper Guillermo Ochoa into his first real piece of work when Luis Suárez unleashed a strike from the edge of the box which was comfortably tipped wide. Suárez presented his European Golden Shoe to the Camp Nou ahead of kick-off but the 29-year-old did not quite have his shooting boots on against Granada as he so usually does.
Barça monopolised possession but the home side’s touches seemed a yard short and the movement a touch sluggish in the opening exchanges. Other than a few huffs and puffs, there was simply no breaking down the Granada back door in the first 45 with no real sign of things changing.
Rafinha breaks the deadlock
But what Barça could not manage in the first half, they managed within five minutes of the first. Leo Messi, who had a quiet night, attempted to layoff the ball off to Suárez but it eventually fell to Rafinha who then unselfishly helped it onto Neymar. The Brazilian could only find the post with his effort but the defender’s clearance bounced up nicely for his compatriot who then acrobatically struck the ball home for 1-0.
Just after the hour-mark, a lung-bursting run from Sergi Roberto was followed up by a pinpoint cross to Neymar who so nearly doubled Barça’s advantage but the Brazilian’s left-footed strike was saved well by the legs of Ochoa.
Minutes later, Barça were handed a reminder that the result was not a foregone conclusion as substitute Boga sprung the offside trap. But much like Suárez in the first, turning onto his favoured right foot meant that Mascherano had time to get back and block the ball.
Sergi Roberto has been making a habit of providing first class service and yet another perfect cross picked out Suárez unmarked in the box. However the striker, who scored a hat-trick to win the league for Barça against Granada on the final day of last season, guided the ball straight into the hands of Ochoa when he really should have scored.
Barça again should have put the result beyond any doubt when substitute Paco Alcácer played Messi through on goal who managed to loft the ball over the keeper but also over the bar, summing up the hosts’ inaccuracy in front of goal.
It was certainly not a vintage display that the fans are accustomed to at the Camp Nou, but Luis Enrique’s men nevertheless managed to get the job done and seal a vital three points which moves them up to second in the table.
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