BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Xavi Hernandez scored three minutes from time to seal Barcelona's hard-fought 2-0 home win over Granada on Saturday, keeping the Spanish leaders perfect through five rounds.
Barcelona opened a provisional 11-point gap over defending champion Real Madrid, which faces a Spanish-capital derby at Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.
Goalkeeper Antonio "Tono" Rodriguez was keeping his net clean with an inspired performance until Xavi pounced on a loose ball at the top of the area and fired it off the underside of the crossbar to finally break through for the hosts.
Lionel Messi then provoked Barcelona's second goal two minutes into injury time when defender Borja Gomez redirected the Argentina forward's shot into his own goal.
Granada largely kept Barcelona out of its area, and even showed moments of attacking intent, in an evenly matched first half. And Tono's numerous acrobatic saves to deny Barcelona after halftime gave the modest side hope that it would finally take at least a point away from Camp Nou Stadium after having lost in its 18 previous visits.
But Xavi, who replaced David Villa in the 53rd after the Spain striker made his first start since breaking his leg last December, placed his right-footed strike in about the only place he could be sure Tono would not be able to reach to claim the win.
"We didn't play an excellent match, and Tono was incredible and stopped everything," said Xavi. "We were rescued by a shot from outside the area, practically just before the final whistle. When you don't score early they just close up even more, but we tried until the end and got the win."
Messi, who Barcelona had needed to score a late brace on Wednesday to secure a win in its Champions League opener, went without scoring for just the second time in eight outings this season. He celebrated Xavi's winner by furiously grabbing the netting while shouting victory along with his roaring fans.
"We played well and held up until the end. We can leave with our heads high," said Tono.
Also on Saturday, South Korea international Park Chu-Young scored in his home debut for Celta Vigo to earn a 2-1 win over Getafe, while Osasuna and Espanyol remained winless along with Granada and stuck at the bottom of the standings after Osasuna lost 3-1 at Zaragoza and Espanyol fell 1-0 at Real Betis.
Continue reading this story on the...