MADRID: Granada took advantage of Barcelona’s troubles on the road to move top of LaLiga with a 2-0 victory at the Estadio Los Carmenes. Ramon Azeez and Alvaro Vadillo netted in either half to leave Barca, who started Lionel Messi on the bench, without a win in all four away matches this season.
A win against a side they have beaten 11 times in their last 12 league meetings would have taken Barca top of the table on goal difference. But despite the introduction of Messi at half-time, it was Granada who took their opportunity to leapfrog Sevilla and Atletico Madrid to the summit.
The hosts went ahead in the second minute through Azeez. Roberto Soldado robbed Junior Firpo, fed Antonio Puertas and his cross was headed in by the striker from close range, leaving Barca trailing for the fourth time in five league matches.
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen made a fine save to push Puertas’ shot wide as Granada attempted to double their advantage. Yangel Herrera, on loan from Manchester City, fired over before Barca had their first attempt on goal on the stroke of half-time, with Luis Suarez having a shot blocked.
Ernesto Valverde shook things up at half-time, bringing on Messi and Ansu Fati for Junior and Carles Perez. But Granada refused to be overawed and almost went 2-0 up following a howler from Ter Stegen. The goalkeeper, under no pressure at all, dropped a catch before recovering to smother the ball before it went over the goal-line.
Granada did double their advantage in the 66th minute, though, Vadillo converting from the penalty spot following a handball from Arturo Vidal, who had just come on as a substitute.
Messi tried in vain to haul Barcelona back into the game, sending in numerous crosses that came to nothing and having a shot saved by Rui Silva. The defeat sees Barcelona drop down to seventh in the table, three points behind leaders Granada, after suffering their second defeat in five league games.
In Italy . . .
Aaron Ramsey struck on his first start for Juventus and Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed the winner from the penalty spot as the Serie A champions came from behind to beat Verona 2-1 at the Juventus stadium.
Juventus, who let slip a two-goal lead in their draw with Atletico Madrid in the Champions League in midweek, fell behind when Miguel Veloso found the top corner in the 20th minute after the visitors had missed an earlier penalty.
However, former Arsenal midfielder Ramsey equalised 11 minutes later with a 20-yard shot that was deflected off Koray Gunter. An unfortunate day for the German defender continued, four minutes after the break, when he brought down Juan Cuadrado for a penalty that Ronaldo tucked away.
Verona came close to a leveller in the 89th minute. Gianluigi Buffon did well to keep out a Darko Lazovic effort and then Veloso’s follow-up struck the woodwork.
Marash Kumbulla was sent off late on for the visitors for a second yellow card after a foul on Blaise Matuidi. While Juve boss Maurizio Sarri was pleased with the three points after their disappointment in Europe, he was frank about the state of his side after a mediocre display.
“This is a team under construction and you can tell,” said the former Napoli and Chelsea manager. “Perhaps there was some mental fatigue, because you need to immediately recharge the batteries a couple of days later. With a lot of changes, you lose some balance and that’s what we saw today, as we played in fits and starts.”
Romelu Lukaku, the former Manchester United striker, was on target as Inter earned the bragging rights with a 2-0 win against derby rivals AC Milan and moved back to the top of the table.
Both sides had efforts disallowed in the first half, with Lautaro Martinez seeing a volley chalked off for offside after a fine acrobatic effort from Danilo D’Ambrosio, who also hit the woodwork from close in. Hakan Calhanoglu was denied the opener after Franck Kessie was adjudged to have handled in the build-up.
Midfielder Marcelo Brozovic opened the scoring for Inter early in the second half via a deflected strike and Lukaku made the points safe in the 78th minute when he guided a header into the far corner from Nicolo Barella’s pinpoint cross.
Romulo scored the only goal of the game as Brescia claimed a 1-0 win at Udinese, who slipped into the bottom three.