Messi restores order for Barcelona
Published : Monday, 20 January, 2020 at 1:39 PM Count : 101
Alate strike from Lionel Messi earned Quique Setien a victory in his debut as head coach for Barcelona, who beat Granada 1-0 on a windy Sunday night at the Camp Nou.
Barcelona dominated the possession but were not able to make much of a dent in the Granada defence until German Sanchez's sending off with 20 minutes to go. The hosts then promptly took advantage and Messi's goal made the difference.
Setien's first Barcelona starting XI saw Ansu Fati fill in for the injured Luis Suarez, while Samuel Umtiti started ahead of Clement Lenglet at centre-back. Elsewhere, Sergi Roberto got the nod over Nelson Semedo at right-back.
Playing in more of a 3-4-3, Barcelona were looking sharp to start, with some nice link-up play from Messi and Jordi Alba almost resulting in an opening goal for Ansu Fati. Later, the young attacker had another chance at goal off a fine cross from Alba, but he failed to connect.
Arguably the best chance at goal in the first 45 minutes came through a familiar Alba-Messi move on the left flank, when the streaking left-back cut back for Messi, only to see the Argentine hit his shot wide.
Barcelona stayed in control as play continued into the second half, but the final touch in the Granada area always seemed to be lacking, almost as if Barcelona were opting for one touch too many.
Granada were barely even getting a sniff of the ball, but Darwin Machis came within an inch of scoring when a Sergi Roberto giveaway led to a chance for the Andalusians, with Machis' having a rare Granada shot come back out off the post.
The task of trying to earn a point got a lot tougher for Granada with about 20 minutes to go when German was sent off for a reckless tackle on Messi, his second yellow card of the night.
Setien went to the bench for the first time in the hope of taking advantage of his side's one-man advantage, so promising midfielder Riqui Puig came on for Ivan Rakitic.
After 75 minutes of poking and prodding, Barcelona finally broke the Granada dam and did it with some champagne football. Messi curled a pass into Antoine Griezmann, who used the outside of his left foot to find Arturo Vidal, and the Chilean conjured up a back-heel to the charging Messi and the Barcelona captain knew what to do from there, slotting home for a 1-0 lead.
Keen to fill things off, Setien made his final two switches, with Ansu Fati yielding his spot to Carles Perez and Vidal making way for Arthur Melo. Despite an overwhelming advantage in possession, Barcelona weren't able to find a second in the final minutes, but it was a winning start nonetheless and a positive way to begin the Setien era.