Xavi Hernandez scored three minutes from time to seal Barcelona’s hard-fought 2-0 home win over Granada on Saturday, keeping the Spanish leaders perfect through five rounds. A miraculous goal from the midfielder with just minutes to go, followed by an own goal, gave Barça the win in a gripping climax to a game against a surprisingly daring Granada. Goalkeeper Antonio “Tono” Rodriguez was keeping his net clean with an inspired performance until Xavi pounced on a loose ball at the top of the area and fired it off the underside of the crossbar to finally break through for the hosts. Barca moved on to 15 points from five games.
The first chance of the game fell to Lionel Messi, but surprisingly it didn’t bring the breakthrough goal. Dani Alves was the creator with a jaw-dropping diagonal pass into the area to pick out Messi’s run, but the Argentine was unusually slow on the trigger, allowing Granada to recover and make the block. However, Granada were not prepared to simply lie down and accept defeat. They fought hard and even took the game to Barcelona when they could, making life difficult for the Blaugrana.
The visitors started well, pressuring the Barcelona players into early mistakes, creating their first half-chance of sorts as early as the first minute. Dani Alves gave the ball away in midfield allowing Guilherme Siquiera to roam free down the left-hand side, but his cross was dealt with – at the second time of asking – by the Barca defense. Despite the early pressure, Barcelona quickly settled into the game, working the ball around the pitch – it was almost like a child’s game: everyone got a touch in the early stages.
It took 86 minutes for Barça to break down a surprisingly resistant Granada. An absolute cracker of a goal from Xavi finally rewarded the Catalans for their insistence, and won a match that looked to be slipping away from them. The Andalusians did a terrific job of containing the Barça onslaught, and if it hadn’t been for a terrific save from Valdés, the visitors could even have taken the lead with a mere five minutes left on the clock. But Xavi, who replaced David Villa in the 53rd after the Spain striker made his first start since breaking his leg last December, placed his right-footed strike in about the only place he could be sure Tono would not be able to reach to claim the win. As Barça made it five wins out of five, Valdés made a crucial save just seconds before Barça opened the scoring at the other end.
Barcelona started the second half well; David Villa displayed fabulous improvisational skills to deflect a low cross towards goal, but in doing so, he sent the shot straight at Tono. Alex Song also had a chance to open the scoring with a header though his effort lacked any real power, so Tono made another comfortable save. Clearly, Tito Vilanova had had enough and sent on the reinforcements: Xavi and Pedro were on, Thiago Alcantara and David Villa went off.
Messi's persistence then saw him squirm into the area and strike a low cross that was turned into his own net by Borja Gómez in time added on to destroy Granada's resistance. “We didn’t play an excellent match, and Tono was incredible and stopped everything,” said Xavi. “We were rescued by a shot from outside the area, practically just before the final whistle. When you don’t score early they just close up even more, but we tried until the end and got the win.”
Granada largely kept Barcelona out of its area, and even showed moments of attacking intent, in an evenly matched first half. And Tono’s numerous acrobatic saves to deny Barcelona after halftime gave the modest side hope that it would finally take at least a point away from Camp Nou Stadium after having lost in its 18 previous visits.
credits to: http://sports.inquirer.net/63612/xavi-gives-barcelona-2-0-win-over-granada