Barca 1-0 Granada: Solid start for Setién
Second half goal from Messi earns victory in new coach’s first game in charge
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Quique Setién has got off to a winning start as FC Barcelona boss. He’s been ringing the changes all week, and it showed as the team registered season high tallies for both possession and passes. He’s been heralded as a ‘Cruyffista’ in the local press, and today we got to see just how true that is.
Against a Granada side that can defend well, and that spent practically spent the 90 minutes doing so, it was not a night for goals. But it was a night for some very beautiful football, and the 65,444 fans who braved a very cold and windy evening in the Catalan capital will have gone home feeling very satisfied with a very fresh-looking Barça.
Setién employed his favoured 3-5-2 system when Barça were going forward, and switched to 4-3-3 when defending. And with Barça in total command, enjoying a humungous 85% of the first half possession, we got to see a lot more of the former.
The football was sweet, the passing game was exquisite and the build-ups were purposeful. Everything was working apart from the one thing that matters most. Goals.
Granada limited their contribution to desperately hanging on, and were doing a remarkably good job of it. Ansu Fati, taking over from the injured Luis Suárez in the Barça attack, was particularly active. Leo Messi was up to his old tricks and the ball was constantly hovering around the danger zone. But we were still waiting for the first goal when the half-time whistle blew.
And so it continued in the second half. Barça were still playing all the football but the ball just didn’t want to go in – and Granada very nearly led when Yan Brice Eteki rifled a shot onto the post.
Barça were thrown a lifeline with twenty minutes left when German Sanchez was ordered off for a second bookable offence.
First goal of Setién era
On came young Riqui Puig for his first taste of first team football this season. And he lived up to the hype. It was his steal that started it, quick-fire passes followed on the edge of the box, Arturo Vidal back-heel included… And there was Messi to coolly send the ball exactly where it needed to go.
Bang! Barça were finally into the lead.
There was little change after that. Barça continued to drive forward, and Granada’s attempts to get back into the game invariably ended with them chasing back to defend a counter attack.
It was by no means an emphatic victory for Barça, but the performance was solid and the goals that didn’t come today are sure to come on other occasions.