Luis Suárez scored twice as Barça returned to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over Las Palmas this afternoon. However, the win was soured by a knee injury to Leo Messi that could see the Argentinian sidelined for two months. Messi was injured in the third minute when Las Palmas defender Pedro Bigas blocked his shot and the first reports suggest he has torn his interior cruciate ligament and will need 7-8 weeks to recover.
The early injury to Messi left Barça looking unbalanced. Munir came on in his place while with both Mascherano and Busquets in midfield there was a lack of thrust from behind the forwards.. Neymar was causing problems but the connection between the front three was missing.
Las Palmas defended deep in a 5-3-2 formation which left few spaces for Barça to exploit and the visitors managed the first shot on goal in the 21st minute though Ter Stegen was well placed to stop Araujo’s low angled shot comfortably. Barça needed somebody to raise their game and it was Sergi Roberto, playing again at right-back, who provided that little bit extra to make the difference. In the 25th minute he started the move for Suárez’s opening goal, finding Rakitic who chipped the ball forward to Munir, before dashing forward to receive Munir’s back-heel and crossing from near the corner flag for Suárez, leaping high above Alcaraz, to finish with a stylish header past Varas from eight yards.
Barça might have added a second soon after, but Neymar volleyed wide from Suárez’s left-wing cross. However, with the game seemingly under control, Barça allowed the visitors a five minute spell before half-time in which Viera caused Ter Stegen a worry with a swerving 30-yarder and the dangerous Roque Mesa led a couple of breakaways that were both poorly finished by Viera. Barça finished the half with Rakitic shooting wide from 20-yards after a good build-up involving Neymar and Suárez.
The one-goal advantage did look too comfortable and when the teams came out for the second half there was the feeling that Barça still had a lot to do to assure the three points. Munir had not had a good first half despite his role in the goal, but in the 54th minute he latched on to Neymar’s pass and sent in a low cross that Busquets allowed to run to Suárez at the far post, and the Uruguayan swept the ball high past Varas for his second of the game.
Barça improved after the second goal, taking advantage of the space left as Las Palmas now pushed forward. Rakitic gave Neymar the chance to show his speed before forcing a good low save from Varas. Then, the Brazilian missed a golden opportunity for Barça’s third when he fired a penalty over the bar after Suarez won a handball off Alcaraz.
Rakitic and Sergi Roberto combined brilliantly to give Suárez the chance for his hat-trick in the 75th minute, but Varas managed to get in the way to parry. Viera fired a free-kick over at the other end but there seemed little threat of any comeback at this point. Mascherano then came very close to his first ever Barça goal with a terrific 30-yard bullet but Varas dived to his right to make a fine save.
Sandro replaced Munir for the final ten minutes and he soon tested Varas after cutting in from the right. Then, with just three minutes left on the clock El Zhar robbed Mascherano before finding Viera who left Ter Stegen without a much-needed clean sheet with the help of a deflection off Piqué. Sandro then missed a great chance, shooting wide of the near post after a wonderful run from Neymar. Las Palmas’s final effort was a hopeful shot well wide from Viera but there were a nervous couple of minutes as Barça held on for the three points.
Barça: Ter Stegen 6.5; Sergi Roberto 8, Piqué 6, Bartra 6.5, Adriano 5.5 (Gumbau m90, -); Rakitic 7, Mascherano 6, Busquets 6.5; Messi — (Munir m9, 6.5 (Sandro m80, 6)), Suárez 7.5, Neymar 7.
Las Palmas: Javi Varas; Simón, Bigas, Aythami, Alcaraz, Dani Castellano; Roque Mesa (Valeron m67), Hernán (Culio m54), Wakaso; Viera, Araujo (El Zhar m67).
Goals: m25 Suárez 1-0, m54 Suárez 2-0, m88 Viera 2-1
Yellow cards: m56 Simon, m58 Wakaso, m92 Suárez