LNTUP

Paulinho’s late winner helps Barça maintain their perfect start to the season

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Paulinho’s late goal at Getafe helped Barcelona maintain their 100 per cent start, but Ousmane Dembele went off hurt.

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Substitute Paulinho scored his first Barça goal with six minutes remaining as Barcelona came from behind to beat Getafe 2-1 and continue their perfect start to the new LaLiga season.

Prior to this match, three of the last four meetings between these two sides had ended in a 6-0 victory for the Catalans and their current form suggested another win for Ernesto Valverde’s side today.

The visitors lost Ousmane Dembele to injury in the opening period of his full Liga debut and their Saturday afternoon got worse when Japan international Gaku Shibasaki scored his first Getafe goal in stunning fashion before the break.

Before the Frenchman was removed, he was having a stinker, losing the ball on almost every occasion he picked it up—though of course it’s foolish to read too much into that, considering the bobbly, unkempt Getafe pitch, which even Lionel Messi had trouble with.

However, Denis Suarez cancelled Shibasaki’s strike in the 62nd minute to draw Barça level, scoring for the first time since January in the process.

Leaders Barca now have 12 points from their first four games and sit seven clear of reigning champions Real Madrid, whose game in hand is a testing away trip to in-form Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Getafe remain on four points and have now gone 10 LaLiga matches without a home win, despite a brave performance.

The hosts made a bright start, forcing Gerard Pique into a rugby tackle on Jorge Molina to thwart an early attack, earning the defender a booking, although the resulting free-kick was wasted.

Getafe were unbelievably close to taking the lead in the 16th minute when a neat passing move ended with Shibasaki’s cross from the left being put into the side netting by a stretching Molina only a yard out, with a vital deflection from Pique as the pass was making its way to the striker doing just enough to put him off.

Barcelona enjoyed all the possession but couldn’t clearly find a way past the well organised Getafe defence. The bobbly, unkempt Getafe pitch was adding more troubles for the visitors as they were clearly not prepared for it and we’re finding it too difficult to play on Getafe’s home turf.

Barca lost Dembele to a hamstring injury midway through the first half after he had attempted a back-heel near the corner flag, Gerard Deulofeu coming on.

Somewhat against the run of play, Barca should have moved ahead when Samuel Umtiti could only send a close-range free header straight at Vicente Guaita from Andres Iniesta’s in-swinging cross.

Shibasaki broke the deadlock in the 39th minute with the help of an absolute screamer. A Getafe free-kick was cleared away by the Barça defence but the ball wad played back into the box, where Bergara chested it down brilliantly into the path of Shibasaki. He fired a first time, left-footed volley high into the top-right corner of the goal to handover a 1-0 lead to Getafe.

Lionel Messi had a quiet first half until he sent a brilliant 30-yard free-kick towards goal in stoppage time, only for Guaita, at full stretch, to push it on to the crossbar as Getafe went into the break ahead.
Getafe hero Shibasaki had to leave the match with an injury of his own early in the second half, shortly before Sergi Roberto tested Guaita.

Denis Suarez struck in the 62nd minute to cancel Shibasaki’s opener. Deulofeu looked to have lost the ball on the right of the box, but Roberto reacted quickly to run onto the loose ball. He charged towards the byline and pulled the ball back to Denis Suarez in space. Denis Suarez, who had replaced Iniesta at the break, had space and time to take a touch and curl a perfectly placed shot into the top-left corner of the goal.

Luis Suarez had a penalty claim turned down after tangling with Djene Dakonam in the box, ultimately earning himself a booking after continuous dissent.

Valverde introduced Paulinho in his final change, but it was Getafe who almost grabbed a shock winner when Mauro Arambarri’s deflected effort bounced off the foot of the post.

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However, despite being off-colour for much of the game, Barca were not to be denied a winner. Paulinho, who had just spent seven minutes on the pitch, struck hard to take the game away from Getafe. Messi rolled the ball into the Brazilian on the edge of the box, who showed great acceleration and strength to power past the Getafe defence and into the right of the box. That one touch was all he needed before he powerfully drove a right-footed effort into the far post and the back of the net.

Paulinho’s strike was enough to put the game beyond Getafe’s reach and maintain Barça’s perfect start to the season.