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2019-2020 LaLiga
  • Lionel Messi (76')
  • German Sanchez (69')

Messi gives new boss Quique Setien first win in charge at Barcelona

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Barcelona may have a new coach but Lionel Messi remains their unquestionable talisman after guiding the Spanish champions to a nervy 1-0 win at home to Granada in La Liga on Sunday in Quique Setien's first game in charge of the club.

The Argentine struck the only goal in the 76th minute, firing into the bottom corner to complete a well crafted team move shortly after the visitors had defender German Sanchez sent off.

"Messi did what he has done his entire life," said Setien of Barca's all-time top scorer, who proved the difference on a blustery evening at Camp Nou.

"He has done this so many times in games like this, games when you cannot find a way through, things aren't going for you and you are lacking inspiration, but he always conjures up something special.

"We made a few moves like this in the first half but it didn't come off but when the ball falls to Messi you know there's a very high chance it will go in."

The victory took Barca back to the top of La Liga on 43 points after 20 games, ahead of second-placed Real Madrid on goal difference.

"We feel good about our performance, we were solid, we controlled the ball and we linked up with each other well," said midfielder Sergio Busquets.

"They sat very far back and we struggled to find the final pass for a lot of the game but I think we played well."

Barca, who sacked Ernesto Valverde last week despite being La Liga leaders and winning the last two titles by considerable margins, enjoyed 82% of possession but struggled to find their way through a compact Granada who beat them 2-0 in September.

The visitors even came close to taking the lead in the second half when Cameroonian Yan Brice Eteki struck the post in a rare foray forward but they eventually caved in after Sanchez picked up a second yellow card and was dismissed for hauling down Messi.

Messi had come closest to scoring for Barca with two powerful yet inaccurate shots either side of halftime but he made no mistake when Arturo Vidal dragged the ball into his path in a slick passing move engineered by substitute Riqui Puig.

Twenty-year-old Puig was rarely given a look in by Valverde but he was given his first league appearance of the season by 61-year-old Setien, who has pledged to honour the club's tradition of giving young, home-grown players a chance.

"He did very well, he came on when we were in a good situation with an extra man and he read the game perfectly," added the coach.

"I'm very happy because we only conceded two shots in the game, we did many things well and I hope that little by little we'll get more fluid and get sharper in front of goal."

Busquets added that the team will play as hard as they did under Setien as they did uner Valverde.

"We shouldn't make comparisons, each coach has their own style and their own way of viewing football. I'm delighted with what Ernesto did and I'm also delighted with Setien," added Busquets.

"The board wanted to make a change and regardless of who is in charge we hope that it's for the better. We still are in a position to win every competition we're in."

Spanish Primera División Standings

POS Team GP GD PTS
1 Real Madrid 24 +30 53
2 Barcelona 24 +28 52
3 Getafe 24 +14 42
4 Atletico Madrid 24 +8 40
5 Sevilla FC 24 +6 40
6 Villarreal 24 +10 38
7 Valencia 24 +1 38
8 Real Sociedad 23 +8 37
9 Granada 24 -2 33
10 Athletic Bilbao 24 +3 31
11 Osasuna 24 -1 31
12 Real Betis 24 -5 29
13 Levante 24 -6 29
14 Alavés 24 -9 27
15 Real Valladolid 24 -7 26
16 Eibar 23 -10 24
17 Celta Vigo 24 -13 21
18 Mallorca 24 -16 21
19 Leganes 24 -18 19
20 Espanyol 24 -21 19