BARCELONA: Antoine Griezmann has started clicking in Barcelona’s attack.
The France forward had struggled to get in sync with new star team-mates Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez before everything fell into place in a 3-0 victory at Eibar on Saturday, pushing Barca to the top of the standings after Real Madrid endured their first La Liga defeat of the season at newly-promoted Real Mallorca.
Griezmann scored the opening goal and made key passes on goals by Messi and Suarez to get Barca’s most convincing victory on the road this season.
Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde said that he had known it was “a question of time and games” before Griezmann settled in.
“At the end, the great players always find one another and can feel where the other one will make his run or a pass. They have worked and played well. And this is the reward.”
The defending champions took a one-point lead over Real after they fell 1-0 at Mallorca.
Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham and Robinho were in the last Real team to lose a league game at San Moix in 2006 and 13 years later, Mallorca repeated the trick thanks to a scintillating strike by Junior Lago in the first half.
Alvaro Odriozola allowed Lago too much room to cut inside and was then sent off late on, even if Real’s attempts at a comeback looked doomed well before they were reduced to 10.
“The problem is we have to show every three days that we are good,” Real coach Zidane said. “That is what we don’t do. We have to be consistent. We have to put more life into our game if we want to achieve anything this year.”
Atletico Madrid continued to miss the goals that Griezmann took with him when he left last offseason for Camp Nou.
Diego Simeone’s side conceded a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw at the Wanda Metropolitano with Valencia after they were down to 10 men when forward Joao Felix injured his right ankle with all three substitutions made.
Barca played their best away match of the season, easily breaking Eibar’s attempt to pressure.
Griezmann got Barca going in the 13th minute when Clement Lenglet met his run behind Eibar’s high defensive line with a long ball that left him alone to beat goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic.
Dmitrovic denied Messi before halftime, but couldn’t turn back his shot in the 58th after a passing combination by Saurez and Griezmann set up Barca’s all-time scorer in the area.
The three were in sync again in the 66th when Griezmann launched Messi with a through ball. Messi then slid the ball over for Suarez to finish off on the break.
Valverde’s team have won five matches across all competitions after an erratic start to the season.
The only blot on the result was an injury to Sergi Roberto, who will be a doubt for the Champions League game at Slavia Prague on Wednesday after hurting his left knee.
REAL BEATEN BY MALLORCA
Mallorca struck early and were not intimidated in the least by Real.
Lago scored the goal that proved to be the winner for the hosts in the seventh. The forward from the Ivory Coast received a ball on the left flank, cut back around Odriozola, and curled a shot past Thibaut Courtois.
Odriozola then left Real a man down in the 74th when he got his second booking for a low tackle that cut down Lago.
Real were without Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos due to injury. Eden Hazard did not travel with Real reportedly because of the birth of his fourth child.
Zidane will hope to have at least one of Modric, Bale and Kroos back for their crucial Champions League group match away at Galatasaray on Tuesday.
Real had gone undefeated in the first eight games. Its only loss in any competition this season came in the Champions League when they fell 3-0 at Paris St Germain in September.
Atletico were in control when Diego Costa converted a first-half penalty after Denis Cheryshev used his hand to block a ball on the edge of the area. The referee consulted the video review to make the ruling.
Cheryshev hit the crossbar in Valencia’s best chance to equalize from open play. But two minutes after Felix limped off to leave Atletico a man down, Dani Parejo bent a free kick over the defensive barrier and beat goalkeeper Jan Oblak with eight minutes remaining before Valencia’s Lee Kang-in was sent off in injury-time
Atletico confirmed Felix suffered a “grade two sprain” in his right ankle. He will now miss the Champions League game at home to Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday.
Atletico are in fourth place behind the surprising Granada. They have scored just three goals and earned one win in six rounds.
Simeone said that the scoring slump was due to the overhaul of the squad that the club carried out in the summer.
“[It’s] because we are a new team,” Simeone said. “We have to get used to playing with each other, and we don’t have the balance to manage all the phases of the match.”
Also, Angel Rodriguez scored his sixth and seventh goals in all competitions to lead Getafe to a 2-0 win over Leganes in a Madrid derby.
Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2019