Friday, June 21, 2024

Record-setter Xavi takes Barcelona back to summit


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Madrid: Xavi Hernandez celebrated his record-setting appearance (392nd in La Liga) by scoring Barcelona’s only goal in a 1-0 victory at Granada that put it provisionally top of the Spanish standings.

Xavi, who surpassed Migueli with his club record 392nd league appearance yesterday, curled a free kick from outside the area over the defensive wall into the top left corner for the 33rd-minute winner.

Granada had little possession inside Barcelona’s half and were further limited after Jaime Romero was sent off in the 53rd. Barcelona lost forward Pedro Rodriguez to injury shortly after.

Granada striker Dani Benitez was also sent off in added time for protesting.

Barcelona leads with 21 points, one better than Levante and two over Real Madrid, which plays Villarreal today.

Surprise package Levante can reclaim top spot with a seventh straight victory when it faces Real Sociedad. Also on Tuesday, Manu del Moral extended Sevilla’s best start in 67 years by heading home an injury-time equalizer to salvage a 2-2 draw against Racing Santander.

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola gave youth team player Isaac Cuenca his first start on the left wing, leaving David Villa and Andres Iniesta on the bench, while Carles Puyol was rested and left out of the squad.

Granada was keen to counterattack and often sent testing long balls toward Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano, but the Argentine, who is normally a midfielder, comfortably dealt with those inconveniences.

Lionel Messi, looking to rediscover his scoring touch after having an injury-time penalty saved in a 0-0 draw against Sevilla on Saturday, displayed some slick dribbling in the 13th but sent a left-footed shot wide of the far post.

The 20-year-old Cuenca had a go from a similar position soon after but also curled it wide.

Pedro headed a clear chance wide in the 22nd while goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez was well-placed to save Eric Abidal’s effort a few minutes. Barcelona’s overwhelming hold on the ball then finally resulted in Xavi’s fourth league goal of the season.

“We didn’t circulate the ball quick enough,” Guardiola said. “We were slower than usual but still did well . Granada did great work tonight. We didn’t reach the level we should be at.” (Agencies)


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