Football Football

Xavi free-kick sends Barca back to summit


MADRID, Spain, October 26- A Xavi Hernandez free-kick returned Barcelona to the top of the La Liga table on Tuesday as they made heavy work of beating nine-man Granada 1-0 and extended their club record run to seven games without conceding a goal.

Levante and Real Madrid have the chance to go back above them on Wednesday after Barca surrendered their lead at the weekend with a goalless draw at home to Sevilla.

Barca coach Pep Guardiola rested Andres Iniesta and David Villa while youngster Juan Cuenca was given his debut in attack.

The visitors dominated the game from start to finish but as against Sevilla they struggled in front of goal.

Lionel Messi and Pedro Rodriguez went close before Xavi Hernandez hit a fine free-kick from distance after 32 minutes which flew into the top corner.

At the start of the second half Granada’s Jaime Romero was given his marching orders after receiving his second yellow card but Barca still couldn’t wrap the game up with a second goal.

At the back though their club record run continues and they have now gone over a month without conceding a goal.

In injury time Daniel Benitez was also red carded after being cautioned for a second time.

Guardiola said that fatigue had been behind his side’s unusually ineffective display.

“We didn’t play the ball around very quickly and we tried to have more control of the game but this is all understandable when you play so many matches,” said Guardiola.

“With the score at 1-0 anything can happen. Any mistake against a side as quick as this (Granada) can be very costly.”

His Granada counterpart Fabri Gonzalez was very critical of the referee.

“I don’t think it was a foul for the free-kick which led to the goal and there was no off-side when Alexandre Geijo was through on goal.

“There was no way our performance merited seven yellow cards and two red,” he said.

Later an injury time header by Manu del Moral, his second goal of the match, grabbed Sevilla a 2-2 draw with Racing Santander, who were denied their first win of the season.

Del Moral deservedly put Sevilla ahead after 37 minutes with a header from a Jose Compana free-kick but in the second half slack defending allowed in Racing.

Having defended doggedly against Barca only days ago they left Ariel Nahuelpan unmarked to head Racing level and then Jairo Samperio fired into the roof of the net after 68 minutes.

With two minutes of injury time played, Del Moral earned Sevilla a draw with a close range header.