Xavi celebrated setting a club
record for La Liga appearances when he netted a superb free-kick
to give an otherwise listless Barcelona a 1-0 win at Granada on
Tuesday in a scrappy game in which the home side finished with
The 31-year-old Spain midfielder, playing his 392nd league
match, struck in the 33rd minute at Granada's Los Carmenes
stadium to lift the champions above surprise packages Levante
and great rivals Real Madrid to the top of the standings.
Xavi's mark beat the previous record set by Migueli, a
central defender known as "Tarzan" who played for Barca in the
1970s and 80s. Xavi already owned the appearance record for all
competitions, which he extended on Tuesday to 591.
"It was a difficult match that we were unable to kill off in
the second half," he told reporters after scoring his fourth
league goal of the campaign.
"Generally it was a good performance but everything can be
improved on," he added.
Barca, who have not conceded a goal in seven matches in all
competitions, have 21 points from nine games. Levante are on 20
from eight ahead of their home match against Real Sociedad on
Wednesday, when Real, who have 19 points, host Villarreal.
Sevilla stayed fourth on 17 points after they needed a
stoppage-time equaliser to rescue a 2-2 draw at home to
struggling Racing Santander in the late kick-off.
A 37th-minute Manu del Moral header put the Andalusians in
front before second-half goals from forward Ariel Nahuelpan and
youth team midfielder Jairo Samperio took Santander within sight
of their first win of the season.
However, Del Moral rose to nod in a second in the 92nd
minute to preserve Sevilla's unbeaten start.
Barca, the European champions, travelled to Granada having
slipped from first to third following Saturday's 0-0 draw at
home to Sevilla when World Player of the Year Lionel Messi had a
stoppage-time penalty saved.
The Argentine, enduring another frustrating night, had a
dinked effort cleared off the line on the hour.
The La Liga joint top scorer, level on 10 goals with Real
forward Cristiano Ronaldo, has failed to score in five away
games in the league for the first time since December 2009.
Granada played most of the second half with 10 men after
midfielder Jaime Romero was shown a second yellow card eight
minutes after the break for catching Maxwell with a high foot.
Forward Dani Benitez was dismissed in stoppage-time when he
earned a second yellow for kicking the ball away.
Despite their numerical advantage, Barca were unable to add
to Xavi's fine effort and even endured nervous moments in the
final stages as Granada pressed for an equaliser.
Referee Cesar Muniz Fernandez brandished his yellow card 11
times, seven to Granada, who did not manage a shot on target,
and four to Barca.
"We were not very quick in passing the ball around," Barca
coach Pep Guardiola said at a news conference.
"When you are only 1-0 ahead anything can happen," he added.
"Any lapse in concentration against such a speedy team can
condemn you but we managed to close out the game."
The Catalan club's victory was soured by an injury to
forward Pedro, who had to be replaced by David Villa 10 minutes
into the second half after twisting his left ankle.
Barca said on their website a
preliminary assessment by medical staff suggested the Spain
international would be sidelined for 10-15 days.
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