Football Club Barcelona moved to within five points of Real Madrid tonight after a crazy 5-3 win over Granada. Leo Messi made history with three more goals which took him past Cesar Rodriguez’s recently revised goalscoring record of 232 goals in official games. The game was looking like a stroll for Barça after taking an early two goal lead, but two Granada goals in the space of seven second-half minutes gave Barça a shock. However, the reaction came with three more goals for Barça though Granada managed to score a third thanks to their second penalty of the night.
Pep Guardiola made five changes to the team that won in Seville with Puyol, Keita, Thiago, Alexis and Cuenca returning in place of Mascherano, Busquets, Fabregas, Pedro and Iniesta. Cuenca was positioned wide on the left and he had an immediate impact on the game. In the fourth minute he sped outside Cortes before crossing to the far post where Messi headed the ball back to Xavi who hooked the ball in from 12 yards though the shot wasn’t the cleanest which may have fooled Julio Cesar.
Messi had his first chance to score on 11 minutes but his powerful low shot, after Alexis’s assist, was well covered by Julio Cesar. Granada were playing a reasonably high defence but they were very narrow which made it easier to get the ball out to Cuenca, in the 17th minute our young winger went past Cortes again and got in another cross which flicked off the top of Borja Gomez’s head before falling nicely for Messi coming in from the right and Messi hit his shot sweetly in off the far post to equal Cesar’s record.
The intensity dropped for the remainder of the first half. Cuenca continued to impress on the left, Alexis was denied a clear penalty after being hacked by Siqueira but there were few clear chances. Granada offered little with the most danger coming from an excellent cross from Dani Benitez that Adriano cleared. At half time Adriano had to be replaced by Mascherano and the first reports suggest a muscle strain which could leave him on the sidelines for ten days.
The second half began with the same low intensity. Messi had a great chance to score the record-breaking goal after Cuenca’s low cross but he screwed the ball wide: quite possibly he wanted to score a better goal for such an occasion! However, suddenly Camp Nou was surprised by Granada scoring a goal out of the blue. They won a free kick out on the left and when the ball swung in Mainz beat Piqué to flick a header past Valdés. If that was bad, things got much worse soon after when Benitez fooled the ref into giving a penalty after braking abruptly in front of Alves as soon as he reached the area, there was contact as Alves tried to avoid the Granada winger, followed by an exagerated dive from Benitez. The ref was about eight yards away and he blew for a penalty. Siqueira sent Valdés the wrong way and Camp Nou could hardly believe it.
There were some nervous minutes as the game became more and more open, but when things are tough there is nobody like Messi to sort things out. In the 68th minute Alves found him and he was played onside by Benitez, and the finish was sublime as Messi lifted the ball over the keeper for this historic goal. Tello and Iniesta came on and Messi gave Tello a great chance with a killer through ball but Tello was forced too wide and then after dribbling back into the area he seemed to be brought down but this time the ref was very poorly positioned to see it.
Alves never stopped coming forward, in the 82nd minute he advanced before finding Iniesta who turned before sending a great ball for Messi, the angle was tight and Julio Cesar beat away Messi’s powerful drive but Tello was on hand to fire the rebound neatly inside the far post. The cherry on the top came four minutes later when Alves again combined with Messi who took the ball around the keeper before shooting past Mainz on the line. The game should have ended here with Messi’s hat-trick but instead Granada were awarded a second penalty for a handball from Alves. The ref showed Alves his second yellow – he’d got one for conceding the first penalty – and Siqueira again showed class to send Valdés the wrong way from the spot. Alves’s sending off should mean he misses our game at Mallorca on Saturday (Here I would like somebody from the Spanish Football Federation to explain how Carlos Martins was playing for Granada after his red card at the weekend. The commentator kindly explained that the Disciplinary Committee were on holiday yesterday. Incredible I know, but this is just one more demonstration of the incompetence of the men in charge of the Spanish game).
Barça: Valdés 6, Alves 8, Puyol 7, Piqué 6.5, Adriano 7 (Mascherano m45, 6.5); Keita 7, Thiago 6 (Iniesta m71, 7), Xavi 8; Alexis 6 (Tello m71, 7) , Messi 8, Cuenca 7.5.
Granada: Julio César; Cortes, Mainz, Borja, Siqueira; D.Benitez, Moisés, Mikel Rico, Jara, Martins; Ighalo
Goals: m4 Xavi 1-0, m17 Messi 2-0, m55 Mainz 2-1, m62 Siqueira (pen) 2-2, m68 Messi 3-2, m82 Tello 4-2, m86 Messi 5-2
Yellow cards: Ighalo, Benitez, Keita, Cortes, Alves, Moises, Mainz, Alves (=red) Mascherano, Geijo.