Luis Suarez starred and Neymar reached 100 Barcelona goals as the champions overcame Lionel Messi’s suspension to win 4-1 at Granada and keep their hopes of winning LaLiga alive.
The pressure was on Luis Enrique’s side, who rested Gerard Pique, after leaders Real Madrid defeated Alaves earlier on Sunday, but the visitors won at Los Carmenes to move back to within two points of their rivals having played a game more.
Suarez chipped Barcelona into the lead at the end of a first half that had also seen him hit the crossbar and have four other shots saved by Guillermo Ochoa in an enthralling battle.
Granada substitute Jeremie Boga gave Barca a scare when he levelled the match after the interval, but Paco Alcacer soon restored the champions’ lead, star man Suarez with the assist.
Uche Agbo was sent off for the hosts with eight minutes remaining, with Ivan Rakitic’s shot deflecting in off Matthieu Saunier just 58 seconds later to end the match as a contest, before Neymar brought up his landmark in stoppage time.
Barca have now won eight of their last nine league matches as the title race continues, while Granada stay second bottom after their fifth loss in six games.
100 – Neymar becomes the third Brazilian player to score 100 goals for Barcelona in all competitions (Rivaldo 130 and Evaristo 105). Samba. pic.twitter.com/YzxpcEaEVH
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) April 2, 2017
Suarez had the first of his chances early on, Granada goalkeeper Ochoa reacting quickly to deny him.
Barca boss Luis Enrique had made four changes to the team that beat Valencia last time out, but was forced into another when Alcacer came on to replace the injured Rafinha after only 17 minutes.
Suarez almost scored a glorious opener midway through the first half when he took Neymar’s pass and sent a magnificent chip over Ochoa and off the crossbar from 18 yards, the Brazil international offside when he converted the rebound.
Ochoa and Suarez were then in the thick of the action again when the keeper produced an impressive double save.
Neymar and Rakitic set up Suarez, whose initial effort was saved, with the Mexico shot stopper getting down again to deny the Uruguay striker later in the move after Alcacer had provided him another chance.
Ochoa saved from Suarez for a fourth time as half-time approached, the Barca striker claiming he was unfairly pressured by Granada captain David Lomban in the act of shooting.
But the first-half feud finally ended in Suarez’s favour one minute before the break, the striker racing on to Jordi Alba’s long throughball and brilliantly chipping Ochoa, who this time was caught out of position.
76 – Excluding penalties, Luis Suárez has scored more goals than any other player in La Liga since his debut (Lionel Messi 75). Lethal. pic.twitter.com/iYDQXEHrCW
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) April 2, 2017
The home keeper saved from Alcacer at the start of the second half, a moment that became more crucial when Granada grabbed a shock 50th-minute equaliser.
Saunier’s perfectly weighted pass sent Boga – who had come on at half-time – through on goal and he took one touch before rolling a low finish past Marc-Andre ter Stegen and in off the far post for his first goal since August.
But Barca got back on track after 64 minutes, Suarez’s lofted pass bounced into Alcacer’s path, allowing the former Valencia striker to beat Ochoa at his near post for only his third league goal of the campaign.
Rakitic had a strike saved and Jeremy Mathieu stabbed wide as Barca looked to put the result beyond doubt, while Ter Stegen saved Andreas Pereira’s long-range effort at the other end.
But any hopes of Granada launching a comeback were ended when Uche received two yellow cards in the space of three minutes, one for dissent and a second for pulling back Alba.
Barca immediately took advantage, Rakitic seizing on a loose ball after Suarez’s run had been blocked in the box to send a low shot into the bottom corner via a deflection off Saunier, which was credited as an own goal.
And Neymar brought up his century for the club in a late breakaway, converting a left-footed volley from six yards after Alcacer’s cross had set him up in the first minute of added time.
Neymar still had time to hit the post with the last kick of the game as the champions eventually settled for four.
Key Opta stats:
– Luis Suarez is the first player to reach the double figures for both goals (23) and assists (10) in Europe’s top five leagues this season.
– Neymar has become the third Brazilian player to score 100 goals for Barcelona in all competitions (Rivaldo 130 and Evaristo 105).
– Excluding penalties, Luis Suerez has scored more goals than any other player in La Liga since his debut (76).
– Guillermo Ochoa made nine saves against Barcelona, his highest tally ever in a La Liga game.
– Barcelona have conceded 26 goals in La Liga 2016-17, only three fewer than last season (29).