Yamal’s brace rescues ragged Barcelona draw against Granada

BARCELONA   -  A double by Barcelona’s teenage winger Lamine Yamal helped his side salvage a 3-3 draw at home to relegation-threat­ened Granada on Sunday in a rollercoast­er LaLiga match. 

Xavi Hernandez’s side, third, shared the spoils with their relegation-battling opponents, 19th, after a thrilling battle at the Olympic Stadium, but now trail lead­ers Real Madrid by 10 points. Los Blan­cos thrashed second-place Girona 4-0 on Saturday to move five points clear at the top and take full control of the title race. 

Earlier Atletico Madrid’s faint hopes of challenging for La Liga deflated further with a 1-0 defeat by Sevilla on Sunday. Youngster Yamal sent Barcelona ahead but Granada battled back with goals from Ricard Sanchez and on-loan Man­chester United winger Facundo Pellistri. 

Robert Lewandowski pulled Barce­lona level but Ignasi Miquel again sent Granada in front, before Yamal struck his second, from long range. “It wasn’t to be, it’s another lost opportunity, but we have to keep working,” Yamal told Movi­star. “I’ve got the trust of the coach but right now I’m thinking more about the draw and that we dropped two points than in my performance.” 

It was the kind of Barcelona perfor­mance which summarised why Xavi has decided to leave the club at the end of the season, convinced the club needs a change of direction. “We gave away goals and chances in many moments,” Xavi told Movistar. “The team had faith, desire and courage like always, but it wasn’t enough and now (winning La Liga) is even harder for us.” 

Yamal lit up the match from the right flank, a rare bright spark on another dif­ficult night for the champions. Joao Can­celo turned well in the area and crossed invitingly for Yamal to fire home at the far post after 14 minutes. The winger be­came La Liga’s youngest ever scorer with a goal against Granada in October when the teams met in a 2-2 draw. 

Barca should have doubled their lead before the break but Martin Hongla cleared off the line from Lewandowski’s shot. The Catalans were punished almost immediately when Pellistri crossed for Sanchez to rifle into the top corner past Marc-Andre ter Stegen. The German goalkeeper, making his first appear­ance since November after a back injury, showed signs of rustiness but could not be blamed for the goal. 

At the same stage last season Bar­celona had conceded eight goals in La Liga, this was the 31st in 24 matches in this campaign, with two more to follow. Pellistri put Granada ahead after Pau Cubarsi’s wayward defensive header dropped to Uzuni. 

Barcelona swiftly levelled when Gun­dogan fed Lewandowski who finished clinically for his 10th goal in La Liga. Home fans hoped their team could kick on and take all three points but Granada -- now unbeaten against Barcelona in five games -- had other ideas. Miquel’s header from Faitout Maouassa’s cross gave Alex­anda Medina’s side the lead once again. It took a fine Yamal effort from outside the area to restore parity, with the young­ster’s strike flying in at the near post.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt