Barcelona keep pressure on Real, defeat La Liga strugglers Granada
Luis Suarez struck again before setting up Lionel Messi as Barcelona won 3-1 at Granada on Saturday to keep the pressure on Real Madrid at the top of the Spanish Primera.
Ivan Rakitic opened the scoring after 25 minutes and then Suarez struck at the start of the second period, grabbing his third goal in four days. Fran Rico pulled one back for the hosts from the penalty spot but Suarez then put the ball on a plate for Lionel Messi to restore the two-goal advantage.
Although this was far from the mesmeric display Luis Enrique’s side produced at Manchester City, it was vital they got back to winning ways in the league after their shock home defeat to Malaga. The win sees them close the gap with Madrid to one point, although Los Blancos host Villarreal on Sunday.
Luis Enrique made three changes to the team that lost to Malaga, recalling Javier Mascherano, Xavi Hernandez and Rakitic. And just as against Malaga, his side struggled to get going.
Their first real chance did not arrive until 23 minutes were on the clock. Suarez advanced down the left and squared to Xavi Hernandez on the edge of the area and the veteran midfielder saw his shot tipped over the bar by former Barcelona goalkeeper Oier Olazabal.
But the opening goal arrived just a moment later. Again Suarez caused problems for Granada down the left hand side and sent the ball across the face of goal. Granada defender Juan Cala attempted to clear but lost control of the ball, allowing Rakitic to burst in front of him and smash in from a couple of yards.
However, Barca could have lost their lead just before the break when Javi Marquez found space to shoot inside the area, but he was denied by a fine save by Claudio Bravo.
Granada had another chance to equalize just after the break. A poor pass by Jeremy Mathieu was intercepted by Lass Bangoura and the Rayo Vallecano loanee raced to the byline to cross towards Jhon Cordoba, but Bravo plucked the ball out of the sky.
Immediately after, Suarez eased Barca’s fears of conceding an equalizer by doubling his side’s lead, exchanging passes with Rakitic and knocking the ball past an advancing Oier first-time.
Granada got themselves back into the game when Marc Bartra was penalized for a soft-looking challenge on Lass in the area and Rico powered the resulting spot-kick just beyond Bravo.
But Suarez again weaved his magic to put the game beyond the hosts. The Uruguayan was released by another fine chipped pass by Rakitic and eased his way past Oier, but instead of passing into the goal, he opted to put the ball on a plate for Messi.
The Argentinian made no mistake but may have been in an offside position.
Suarez looked bemused when he was then substituted by Luis Enrique for Pedro. The Spain international squandered a chance to grab a fourth, as did Messi, but Barca had already done what was required.
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.