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Friday, March 31, 2023

LaLiga Title Race Takes Twist as Granada Shock Barca

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Granada sent shockwaves through the LaLiga Santander title race with a stunning comeback to win 2-1 over Barcelona on Thursday night at the Camp Nou.

Barcelona looked to be in control with a one-goal lead at intermission thanks to a Lionel Messi goal, but they failed to put the Andalusian visitors away and a strike from Darwin Machis along with a Jorge Molina header leaves Barcelona two points adrift of league leaders Atletico Madrid.

Coach Ronald Koeman made several changes to the side that won at Villarreal over the weekend. Youngster Ilaix earned himself a start in midfield over Pedri, as did Samuel Umtiti in defence ahead of Clement Lenglet, and Sergi Roberto came in over Sergino Dest on the right wing.

It took the first part of the first half for Barcelona to open up Granada, but they did so in style with Messi finding the net after a one-two combination with Antoine Griezmann that included a pirouette from the Frenchman before feeding the Argentine and a 1-0 Barcelona lead.

The orchestrator of Barcelona’s symphonic play was Sergio Busquets and a surgical pass from the veteran midfielder into Messi had all the makings of a second goal, only for Aaron to get the slightest of touches with his foot to deflect the shot wide.

Barcelona remained on the front foot to start the second stanza and nearly found their second when Ilaix linked with Griezmann and the French striker fired wide.

For all of Barcelona’s dominance and flashed of brilliance, it was still just a one-goal affair going into the final half-hour and on a rare foray forward, Granada turned the match on its head when Machis ran onto a ball deflected off the foot of Mingueza and fired in at the near post to level things at 1-1.

Koeman was none too pleased with the proceedings and took out his frustrations on referee Pablo Gonzalez Fuertes, who promptly brandished a red card for the Dutch boss.

The first changes came for Barcelona shortly thereafter, with Ousmane Dembele summoned to add a spark in place of Mingueza, while Pedri replaced Ilaix.

The onus was on Barcelona to find a goal, but penetrating the Granada defence was proving too difficult and the Andalusians drove a stake further into the Catalonians when Molina was left all alone on a cross and steered a header into net to give the visitors a shock 2-1 lead.

Barcelona launched numbers forward in search of two goals in the final 10 minutes, including Trincao on for Busquets, but Granada never cracked, adding yet another twist to the most intriguing title race in years.

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