Lionel Messi, Barcelona Stunned 2-0 by Granada in La Liga

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistSeptember 21, 2019

Granada's Venezuelan midfielder Yangel Herrera (L) vies with Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi during the Spanish league football match between Granada FC and FC Barcelona at Nuevo Los Carmenes stadium in Granada on September 21, 2019. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)        (Photo credit should read JORGE GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images)
JORGE GUERRERO/Getty Images

Barcelona slipped to a shock 2-0 defeat away to Granada in La Liga on Saturday. A header from Ramon Azeez put Barca behind in the first minute.

Alvaro Vadillo struck from the penalty spot after video assistant referee confirmed Arturo Vidal was guilty of handball 20 minutes into the second half to give Granada all three points. Barca had no answers, despite bringing Lionel Messi off the bench at halftime.

Granada finished the day as the shock leaders, while struggling Barcelona sit seventh.

Aside from missing Messi, Barca were also vulnerable because left-back Jordi Alba missed the game through injury. His replacement, Junior Firpo, lost possession deep into his own territory, and the hosts profited thanks to Azeez's header with less than two minutes on the clock.

Shockingly, the Blaugrana mustered next to nothing in response. There was no invention from midfield, where summer import Frenkie de Jong struggled to exert himself.

Ivan Rakitic and Vidal also weren't getting on the ball enough, leaving Antoine Griezmannand strike partner Luis Suarez starved of service. Instead, it was the hosts who were turning on the style:

Needing a major shake-up, Ernesto Valverde called Messi off the bench at the break, but the prolific No. 10 wasn't alone. Ansu Fati was also tasked with adding another chapter to his rapid rise as a 16-year-old graduate of Barca's famed La Masia academy.

Granada's intense pressure and Barca's increasing predilection for self-destruction combined to help the home side doubled its lead on 65 minutes. VAR judged Vidal was guilty of handball, awarding a penalty winger Alvaro Vadillo converted.

Barca were still lacking inspiration in the final third, but Fati and Messi combined brilliantly in the 82nd minute, only for the latter's shot to be saved. It was a decent chance, but the best the visitors could produce late on.

Enduring the club's worst start for a quarter of a century is all Valverde's men merit for the tame fare they offered.

Getting Messi back to full fitness is the obvious priority, but finding better ways to unleash De Jong's technical qualities is also a pressing need. A defence looking increasingly fragile in domestic action could also use a refresh.

It looks like too much to fix for a squad chasing a third title in a row.

  

What's Next?

Barca host Villarreal at the Camp Nou on Tuesday, while Granada face Real Valladolid away from home on the same day.

Related

    Report: Inter to Meet Vidal's Agent

    FC Barcelona logo
    FC Barcelona

    Report: Inter to Meet Vidal's Agent

    Sempreinter
    via Sempreinter

    UCL Odds: Man City Still Favourites 👀

    Liverpool, Barca and Bayern all in the mix — full list of odds 👇

    FC Barcelona logo
    FC Barcelona

    UCL Odds: Man City Still Favourites 👀

    Rory Marsden
    via Bleacher Report

    The Big Losers of the UCL Draw Are...

    Drop your take in comments now

    FC Barcelona logo
    FC Barcelona

    The Big Losers of the UCL Draw Are...

    Strawpoll
    via Strawpoll

    Who Wins the Champions League?

    Vote for this year's winner

    FC Barcelona logo
    FC Barcelona

    Who Wins the Champions League?

    Strawpoll
    via Strawpoll