Barcelona, 20 January 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Lionel Messi put the finishing touch to a great team move to earn new Barcelona coach Quique Setien a 1-0 win over Granada on his debut in La Liga.
The veteran replaced Ernesto Valverde at the helm on Monday and victory restored Barcelona to the top of the table, ahead of Real Madrid on goal difference with 43 points from 20 matches.
Earlier Real Mallorca thrashed 10-man Valencia 4-1 to climb out of the relegation zone, while Real Betis saw off Real Sociedad 3-0.
Messi twice came close with free-kicks and fired into the side netting as Barcelona dominated possession against Granada but failed to score in the first half.
Granada’s Yan Eteki hit the post with a low drive after the break but the Andalusians had defender German Sanchez dismissed for his second yellow card when he tripped Messi.
That tipped the game in Barcelona’s favour and Messi slotted home after 76 from Arturo Vidal’s backheel to take home three points.
“We have good feelings (from the game), we were a solid team,” said Sergio Busquets.
“We had control of the ball, they created little. It’s true that it was hard to break through but generally the team had a good game.
“Each coach has their own style and form of seeing football, you’ll see what Setien has asked from us [in the future], we won’t reveal it.
“We’re delighted with what Valverde did and delighted with Setien too.”
In Mallorca Ante Budimir struck twice in the first half after Antonio Raillo broke the deadlock to give the hosts a healthy lead over Valencia at the interval.
Raillo headed home Salva Sevilla’s free-kick in the seventh minute, with Budimir stabbing home the second in the 22nd minute and rifling in four minutes before the break.
Valencia’s afternoon at Son Moix got worse when captain Dani Parejo fouled Budimir and was dismissed six minutes into the second half for a second yellow card.
Dani Rodriguez hammered home the fourth from distance, but Ferran Torres notched a late consolation for Albert Celades’s Los Che.
Mallorca climb above Celta Vigo to 17th, on 18 points from 20 games, with the Galicians drawing 1-1 at Athletic Bilbao later on. Valencia stay seventh on 31 points.
“The secret is to work hard, keep going and for circumstances to go in your favour like today,” Mallorca coach Vicente Moreno said.
“This allows us to be a bit calmer going into the weeks ahead but nothing will change.”
Celta took the lead at Athletic through former Barcelona midfielder Rafinha Alcantara but Raul Garcia equalized from the penalty spot to tie the game.
At the Benito Villamarin, Joaquin and Canales came close for Betis before Borja Iglesias sent the hosts ahead.
Veteran midfielder Joaquin slotted home the second shortly before half-time, just reward for an impressive performance from the Andalusians, who moved into 11th.
Real Sociedad, sixth, could not find a way back into the game and Canales struck deep in stoppage time on the counter to seal victory.
Espanyol earned their first victory in 10 league matches as they triumphed 2-1 at Villarreal, but remain bottom in 20th.