BARCELONA: Barcelona may have a new coach but Lionel Messi remains their unquestionable talisman after guiding the Spanish champions to a nervy 1-0 win at home to Granada in La Liga on Sunday in Quique Setien's first game in charge of the club.
The Argentine struck the only goal in the 76th minute. During a blustery evening at Camp Nou, he fired into the bottom corner to complete a well crafted team move shortly after the visitors had defender German Sanchez sent off.
Barca, who sacked Ernesto Valverde last week despite being La Liga leaders and winning the last two titles by considerable margins, enjoyed 82per cent of possession but struggled to find their way through a compact Granada who beat them 2-0 in September.
The visitors even came close to taking the lead in the second half when Cameroonian Yan Brice Eteki struck the post in a rare foray forward but they eventually caved in after Sanchez picked up a second yellow card and was dismissed for hauling down Messi.
Messi had come closest to scoring for Barca with two powerful yet inaccurate shots either side of halftime but he made no mistake when Arturo Vidal dragged the ball into his path in a slick passing move engineered by substitute Riqui Puig.
The victory took Barca back to the top of La Liga on 43 points after 20 games, ahead of second-placed Real Madrid on goal difference.
(Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)