A below-par Barça clocked up three more points this afternoon with a 1-3 win over Granada at the Nuevo Los Cármenes stadium. Ivan Rakitic and Luis Suárez made the difference in an uninspiring game with both players involved in all three Barça goals. Rakitic put Barça ahead in the 25th minute after good work from Suárez then the Croatian sent in the Uruguayan for the second just after half-time. Fran Rico pulled a goal back from the penalty spot before Rakitic and Suárez combined to set up Leo Messi to complete the scoring.
Luis Enrique made four changes to the team that won at Manchester City on Tuesday with Bravo, Bartra, Mathieu and Xavi coming in for Ter Stegen, Piqué, Busquets and Iniesta. Mascherano was moved into midfield as a result but neither he nor Xavi had a very effective game as Barça struggled to find any rhythm. When Javi Marquez clattered into Alves in the first minute, leaving the full-back with a bloody nose, it was clear Granada had no intention of allowing Barça to settle.
The opening spell was fairly even with neither side creating much danger. Suárez and Neymar both fell into the offside trap and it wasn’t until the 23rd minute that Suárez set up Xavi for a shot on goal that ex-Barça keeper Oier Olazábal tipped over the bar. Granada had a couple of decent-looking counters but Marquez’s hopeful header over from 20 yards was the home team’s first effort on goal.
Then in the 25th minute Jordi Alba lobbed a right-footed pass into the area for Suárez to chase. Oier came out to narrow the angle and when the Uruguayan miscued his shot across the goal the ball hit Cala and dropped dead for Rakitic who was following up for a simple finish from four yards.
Granada refused to lie down after the goal and Barça’s defence always struggled against the powerful Jhon Cordoba. Javi Marquez was rightly annoyed with referee Jaime Latre for getting in his way as he shaped to shoot but shortly before half-time the Granada midfielder had another effort which was heading for the bottom corner before Claudio Bravo leapt spectacularly to his left to turn the ball past the post. Barça had offered little more at the other end except for two assists from Rakitic to Messi, the first was fired over by the Argentinian while from the second Oier came out quickly to make a good save.
Both Mathieu and Alves looked vulnerable at the back and early in the second half a poor pass from the Frenchman to the Brazilian allowed Lass the chance to penetrate and cross and Bravo needed to make another agile leap to catch. Then a minute later Barça won a throw on the right. The ball came to Suárez who set off on a run. The Uruguayan sent a pass inside to Rakitic and continued his run to meet the return before slipping the ball past Oier.
At 0-2 it should have been game over but four minutes later Lass went past Alves before cutting past Bartra who couldn’t avoid contact and the ref pointed to the spot. Bravo got close to Fran Rico’s penalty but the shot was well hit and now Granada were back in with a shout at 1-2.
Neymar had a disappointing game and a booking in the 55th minute means he will miss next Sunday’s game with Rayo. Xavi also failed to put his stamp on the game and he missed a chance to control Neymar’s pass in a good position before being subbed off for Rafinha with 25 minutes remaining.
Rafinha’s entrance added more energy to the midfield and five minutes after the substitution Barça scored again to end Granada’s hopes. Again it was the excellent Rakitic who found the pass behind the defence for Suárez, Oier came out but failed to stop Suárez going past him and just when it seemed a simple goal for the Uruguayan he decided to pass to Messi who scored easily from six yards. Barça were fortunate that the goal was allowed as with Oier out of his goal there was only one defender between Messi and the goal when Suárez passed. There was only an inch or two in it and Suárez’s pass was only marginally forward but the goal should never have stood. Busquets and Pedro replaced Mathieu and Suárez and it was plain sailing for Barça now. Messi mis-hit a shot wide after Neymar’s overhead cross and in the final minutes both Messi and Pedro missed good chances to add to the score.
The performance may not have been great from the majority of the team today but the result is a good one at a stadium that has proved difficult since Granada’s promotion in 2011. Three Barça players stood out in a disappointing match and curiously they were all signed last summer. Rakitic had a splendid game in midfield while Suárez followed his taming of the Etihad with another highly-mobile performance in attack. It seems he has now shaken off the anxiety seen in earlier games and the goals are beginning to flow. Praise should also go to Claudio Bravo for his superb stop from Marquez’s drive. With Granada constantly looking to complicate our day that save helped a lot towards the victory.
Granada: Oier; Nyom, Babin, Cala, Foulquier; Iturra, Fran Rico; Robert Ibáñez, Javi Márquez (Rochina m67), Lass (Success m78); Jhon Córdoba Candeias m78)
Barça: Bravo 7.5; Alves 5.5, Bartra 6, Mathieu 5.5 (Busquets m75, 6), Alba 6; Rakitic 8.5, Mascherano 6, Xavi 5.5 (Rafinha m65, 6.5); Messi 6.5, Luis Suárez 8 (Pedro m79, 6), Neymar 5.5
Goals: m25 Rakitic 0-1, m48 Suárez 0-2, m53 Fran Rico (pen) 1-2, m70 Messi 1-3
Yellow cards: m2 Marquez, m15 Suárez, m55 Neymar, m58 Mathieu,