Valverde worried as newly promoted Granada stun Barca - GulfToday

Valverde worried as newly promoted Granada stun Barca

Granada

Granada’s Ramon Azeez scores against Barcelona during their Spanish League match in Granada on Saturday. Associated Press

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said he was concerned about the team’s away form after they were comprehensively beaten 2-0 by promoted Granada on Saturday and he took full responsibility for the club’s worst start to a La Liga season in 25 years.

“I’m worried because away from home we’re not getting good results. No wins from four away games this season is a clear symptom that we are not in a very good situation,” Valverde told reporters.

“Some of our players joined the squad late but we did not play well today and we have not been playing well away from home lately.

“We dominated the play but couldn’t manage to create many chances and we never looked like getting back into the game.”

Valverde also said he was concerned about Barca’s poor defence as he was reminded they were the only team in La Liga along with Real Betis to have conceded nine goals this season, and recognised that as coach he was to blame for their plight.

“It’s clearly not a very good statistic for us and not in line with what we have been doing in the last few years,” he said.

“The players are the actors, but in the end the coach is the one who is responsible for what happens. You can always lose a game but when you do you should feel that you deserved to win but that was not the case today.”

Lionel Messi was still not deemed fit enough to start at Los Carmenes while Fati, the 16-year-old who has lit up La Liga in recent weeks, also began the game on the bench.

But while both came on at half-time with Barca trailing to Ramon Azeez’s opener, it was Granada that scored again, Alvaro Vadillo converting a penalty after Arturo Vidal was found guilty of a handball.

Barcelona have now won only two of their opening five league games and none away from Camp Nou, this their second loss already, just one fewer than the three they suffered during the entirety of last season.

With seven points on the board, this is their worst start to a season since 1994.

Instead, Granada go top of the table after capitalising on Atletico Madrid’s goalless draw at home to Celta Vigo a few hours before.

They will stay there until Sunday, when Sevilla, Real Madrid or Athletic Bilbao could overtake them. Barcelona are sixth, grasping onto the consolation of Messi’s second substitute appearance in five days that now suggests he has finally recovered from the niggling calf injury sustained at the start of August.

Their problems though are unlikely to be solved simply by their captain’s return.

Junior Firpo’s error two minutes into his first start for the club gifted Granada their opening goal and set the tone for a chaotic night in defence.

And up front, Antoine Griezmann was quiet again, with little in any of the combinations to suggest Ernesto Valverde has yet worked out who will form his best attacking trio and in what positions.

Firpo’s mistake came early, as he shaped to play a long ball over the top back to his goalkeeper. Instead, the lively Roberto Soldado stole possession and slipped in Antonio Puertas.

With Firpo on the floor, Gerard Pique scrambled across but Puertas’ shot only looped up off the defender to the back post where Azeez headed in.

Granada seemed hungrier than Barca and their dominance persuaded Valverde to make two changes at half-time, Messi and Fati replacing Carles Perez and Firpo.

Messi won a free-kick 30 yards out but hit it straight at the wall while Marc-Andre ter Stegen fumbled a cross and had to react quickly to claw it back off his own line.

Any hopes of a Barca comeback were dashed in the 66th minute as Vidal handballed at the end of a scramble in the box and Vadillo made no mistake with the spot-kick.

One break saw Messi supply Fati but the teenager took too long and then Messi tried himself but his shot was straight at the goalkeeper. In the end, Granada were comfortable winners.

Atletico could have returned to the top of La Liga but were frustrated by a determined Celta Vigo.

After coming from two goals down to salvage a point against Juventus in the Champions League on Wednesday, Atletico failed to sustain the momentum in a match of few chances at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Agencies