Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Barcelona 1 Granada 0: Rafinha sees champions past basement boys

SoccerNews in La Liga 29 Oct 2016

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Barcelona climbed up to second place in LaLiga with a forgettable 1-0 win over bottom side Granada.

Real Madrid put pressure back on to the champions earlier on Saturday as Cristiano Ronaldo hit a hat-trick in a 4-1 win at Alaves.

Luis Enrique’s men were hardly emphatic in response as Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez drew a rare collective blank.

It was left to Rafinha to continue his quietly impressive goalscoring form in the Spanish top flight this season – the Brazilian midfielder’s acrobatic volley early in the second half his fifth in six league games.

Granada remain winless, with three points from 10 matches, and showed limited ambition throughout, but coach Lucas Alcaraz will at least take solace that a repeat of the 7-1 thumping at Atletico Madrid earlier this month was avoided and never appeared to be on the cards.

Luis Enrique continues to grapple with a lengthy injury list and made three changes from last weekend’s dramatic 3-2 win at Valencia, with Denis Suarez in for injured captain Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets rested on the bench ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League trip to Manchester City.

Barca’s feted front three were all present and correct – Luis Suarez having received the European Golden Shoe for his exploits last season before kick-off – and Messi had a seventh-minute shot blocked.

The hosts were struggling to turn their possession into clear chances by the time Neymar steered an angled attempt off target in the 19th minute, while Ivan Rakitic glanced wide from a Messi centre shortly afterwards.

Luis Suarez looked to bear down on goal but a poor first touch allowed goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa and the Granada defence to smother the danger.

Guillermo pushed a low 25-yard shot to safety from Luis Suarez 10 minutes from the end of a half where he might have expected to be much busier.

Barcelona briefly approached their task with renewed vigour after the interval and broke the deadlock within three minutes of the restart.

Messi dribbled menacingly towards the Granada area, where Rafinha fed Neymar and the Brazil superstar somehow sidefooted a simple finish against the post.

The rebound spun upwards and, as visiting defenders packed the six-yard box, Rafinha reacted sharply to spear an overhead kick into the top corner.

On a rare foray forward for Granada after the hour, substitute Jeremie Boga cut into the Barca area from the left and saw his shot deflected behind.

Luis Suarez headed too close to Guillermo and Messi lifted a one-on-one over as the match reached a scrappy conclusion, with Barcelona giving off the impression of a side ticking a box and moving on to the defence of their 100 per cent record in Europe this term next time out.

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