Barca’s title hopes dashed by Granada loss
Barcelona’s La Liga title hopes suffered a huge blow as they lost 1-0 at Granada on Saturday to slip to a second consecutive defeat.
Algerian Yacine Brahimi scored the only goal of the game after 16 minutes as Barca failed to find a way past the inspired Orestis Karnezis in the Granada goal.
Just three days after being dumped out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid, Barca trail Atletico by a point having played a game more and could end the night in third place should Real Madrid beat Almeria at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Gerardo Martino made four changes from the side that started Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat to Atletico with a makeshift back four made up of reserve full-backs Adriano and Martino Montoya alongside natural holding midfielders Javier Mascherano and Sergio Busquets.
It was Montoya who had Barca’s first opening as he headed straight at Karnezis 12 minutes in.
However, just four minutes later Granada took advantage of Barcelona’s unsettled defence to open the scoring as Brahimi sped past Busquets and forced the ball past Jose Manuel Pinto at his near post.
Neymar then headed over from a fine Montoya cross before the Brazilian forced Karnezis into his first serious save of the day with a curling effort from outside the area that was beaten away by the Greek ‘keeper.
It was one way traffic in the second-half as Barca were denied on numerous occasions by Karnezis.
Cesc Fabregas was the first to come close as his low volley was turned behind before Neymar came within inches of an equaliser with a low drive that flew across goal and just past the far post.
Karnezis then made two great saves in as many minutes as he got a hand to Messi’s inch-perfect free-kick to prevent the ball finding the top corner and then held Busquets’ effort as the Spanish international bundled the ball goalwards from the resulting corner.
Even when Karnezis was finally beaten, on-loan Liverpool defender Tiago Llori was on hand to clear another effort from Neymar off the line as the ball trickled towards goal.
Andres Iniesta then saw another two efforts fly just past as Barca threw everyone forward and they were nearly caught on the break when Youssef El-Arabi fired straight at Pinto with just the keeper to beat two minutes from time.
Karnezis was forced into one final save by a Pedro Rodriguez volley in stoppage time which he held with consumate ease to dent Barca’s title challenge and take Granada six points clear of the relegation zone.