Lionel Messi’s La Liga start lasted only until half-time but Barcelona were still able to see off Villarreal with a 2-1 victory at Camp Nou on Tuesday night.
The Argentine set up the opener for Antoine Griezmann with a corner in the sixth minute before Arthur doubled the advantage with fine strike 10 minutes later.
Santi Cazorla produced a stunning effort of his own just before the break but the Catalans were able to hold on for the three points in the second half.
Here, we rate Barcelona’s players.
STARTING XI (4-3-3)
Ter Stegen 5 – Could’ve done better to deny Cazorla but was fairly solid otherwise.
Semedo 6 – Good in defence and carried the ball down the flank well. Final ball was lacking.
Pique 6 – Cleared his lines well and helped his side build play with his passing out of defence.
Lenglet 6 – Went about his business quietly and efficiently. Complemented the more proactive Pique.
Firpo 5 – Good in one-on-one duels but didn’t offer much going forward.
Busquets 6 – Shielded the back four well with his clever positioning and recycled possession expertly.
Roberto 5 – Offered little in defence or attack. Another bland performance.
Arthur 7 – Scored a fantastic goal, worked hard to recover possession and impressed with his passing in midfield.
Messi 7 – Pulled the strings in the final third and delivered the corner for Griezmann to make the breakthrough. Replaced at half-time due to injury.
Suarez 4 – Squandered a couple of decent chances and was largely a passenger.
Griezmann 7 – Apart from his goal, the Frenchman looked sharp as he linked play well with Messi, Suarez and Fati.
Dembele (45′) 7 – Replaced Messi at the break and was a live wire down the right. Unlucky not to bag an assist.
De Jong (62′) 6 – Gave Barcelona greater control in the middle of the park after coming on for Roberto.
Fati (77′) 8 – Continued to show what an extraordinary talent he is with an exciting cameo during which he could easily have scored and assisted. Even had a decent shout for a penalty.
Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde admitted that his team didn’t deserve to win as they were beaten 2-0 at Granada in La Liga on Saturday.
This second defeat in five league games saw the defending champions drop down to seventh in the table, three points behind leaders Granada.
Watch his reaction above:
Luis Suarez admits Barcelona have a “tough year ahead of us” after a 2-0 defeat at Granada.
Ramon Azeez and Alvaro Vadillo netted in either half as Granada moved top of La Liga, leaving Barca without a win in four away matches this season.
The defending champions, who left Lionel Messi on the bench, are already three points off the pace after losing two of their first five matches.
Striker Suarez said in quotes on AS: “It’s a worrying defeat, a defeat that hurts. And a defeat that we have to take a real good look at, because there are lots of things that we have to improve.
“There’s a long way to go yet, but these are the types of games that win you the title. We have to be tougher if we’re going to win the league. We have a tough year ahead of us.”
A win against a side they have beaten 11 times in their last 12 league meetings would have taken Barca top of the table on goal difference.
But despite the introduction of Lionel Messi at half-time, it was Granada who took their opportunity to leapfrog Sevilla and Atletico Madrid to the summit.
The hosts went ahead in the second minute through Azeez. Roberto Soldado robbed Junior Firpo, fed Antonio Puertas and his cross was headed in by the striker from close range, leaving Barca trailing for the fourth time in five league matches.
Granada doubled their advantage in the 66th minute, Vadillo converting from the penalty spot following a handball from Arturo Vidal, who had just come on as a substitute.
“You can’t go behind so early,” Suarez said. “That made everything that bit tougher for us. We had possession of the ball, but we couldn’t make it count. We have to analyse what happened.”
Barcelona have lost on the road at Athletic Bilbao and Granada already this season, as well as drawing at Osasuna and Borussia Dortmund, and have scored only two goals.
“What we have to look at is the way we’re playing as the away side, because the lack of cutting edge and chances is worrying,” Suarez added.
“We’re Barcelona, and we have to go out there to win the game – we can’t start the way we did.”