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Barcelona are a broken team being held together by a spindly 16-year-old winger who is currently performing head and shoulders above all of his team-mates.
When Xavi finally leaves this summer – if he lasts that long on the Barça bench – the only plus of his second full season will be that he has been prepared to start and finish games with Lamal Yamal.
The teenager got his team’s first and third in this 3-3 draw against lowly Granada. He dragged his wreckage of a team to a point but that’s nowhere near enough for them to put any sort of pressure on leaders Real Madrid. On the bright side it’s a point gained on second-placed Girona who were beaten 24-hours before.
Barcelona need to finish second in the league to qualify for next season’s Spanish Super Cup. And they need a strong Champions League run – neither look too likely playing this way.
They had little to offer in the first half apart from their boy-wonder winger and he was enough to give them the lead on 14-minutes.
Barcelona drawing with lowly Granada meaning sparks flew and emotions were high
Lamine Yamal celebrates his goal as he bailed out Xavi's Barcelona side with an equaliser
Yamal curled home the equaliser for Barcelona to save their blushes, despite Granada clinging on at the end
Ilkay Gundogan, Pedri and Joao Cancelo built an attack down the left. It broke down when the ball reached Robert Lewandowski and he wandered into traffic and lost it.
But it came back out to Pedri and his curling cross to the back post was turned in by Yamal. The teenager had threatened moments before crossing from the right with no one to connect with his dangerous centre.
Barça did not build on the lead and with goalkeeper Marc Andre ter Stegen not inspiring much confidence at the back there was always a chance they would concede an equalizer.
The German keeper has been out for almost three months and since his last game in November Barcelona have let in 28 goals in 15 games. His return could not prevent strugglers Granada scoring.
It was Manchester United loanee Facundo Pellistri who made the goal getting away from Pedri down the Granada and crossing for Ricard Sanchez to score. The run was a good one although Pedri provided little resistance. But it was the intelligence of the pull-back and the pace with which it was played that made the goal.
Ricard just had to make a clean contact and guide it with precision. He did that, leaving Ter Stegen well beaten in the top corner of his near post.
Lewandowski might have put Barcelona back into the lead but his shot from Gundogan’s cross was blocked on the line by Martin Hongla.
Granada signed 10 players in January in an attempt to save themselves and Xavi came into the game with the record of never having beaten them as coach. But they are second for bottom and Barcelona’s pedestrian, disjointed first half performance earned them whistles on the half-time whistle.
At the restart Lewandoski had Barcelona’s first chance from Gundogan’s pass but he blazed over. And it was not long before Granada were on the attack with Pellistri sent over the top on to a long pass from Ricard. He tried to beat Ter Stegen at his near post but this time the keeper saved with his face.
It was Pellistri who put Granada in front. Pau Cubarsi’s header dropped short to Myrto Uzuni and when he crossed it was the Uruguayan winger who turned the ball in at the back post with Iñigo Martinez and Cancelo both spectators.
Granada's Sergio Ruiz celebrates taking the lead infront of the disconsolate Andreas Chirstensen and Ilkay Gundogan
Granada boss Alexander Medina coached his side to an excellent draw despite being 19th in La Liga
The lead only lasted three minutes because Cancelo crossed from the left to Gundogan and he slipped Lewandowski through to fire past Augusto Batalla and put Barcelona back level.
Surely Barcelona now would go on to win the game. Wrong. Granada went 3-2 up from their next chance when Faitout Maouassa crossed and Ignasi Miquel headed in his team’s third. He came through the Barcelona youth team before moving to Arsenal. Now 31-years-old the centre-back had scored against their awful defence.
Barcelona were back level again when Yamal got his team’s third and the game’s sixth goal. Unlike the first goal he scored there was no clever build-up. He just lashed into bottom left corner of Augusto Batalla’s goal from the edge of the area.
He barely celebrated. He knows it’s not good enough to draw with lowly Granada. And his next trick was to almost set-up Barça’s fourth. He drifted into space down the right and with the outside of his left boot crossed to Gundogan who couldn’t beat Batalla.
Granada held on for the point and maybe deserved more. Xavi can point to the fact that the savior of his team is there because he has believed in him. His critics will remind him that without Yamal Barça have nothing else.
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