at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Madrid – Barcelona assistant manager Jordi Roura hailed 300-goal Lionel Messi after the Argentine's double helped his side come from a goal down to beat Granada 2-1 on Saturday.
Messi's first goal was also his 300th in a Barcelona jersey and Roura was particularly relieved for his efficiency in front of goal on a night when some of his teammates had passed up a number clear chances.
“What am I going to say? It is something extraordinary,” he told reporters.
“To score 301 goals I think is incredible and, in this game, when we lacked cutting edge he helped us.”
Roura was also happy with how his side responded after Odion Ighalo had fired the hosts into the lead against the run of play on 26 minutes.
“The result is very good but I don't think it was the only good thing. We weren't clinical in front of goal, but these players love to compete and after the first goal we have gone until the end and managed to come back,” he said.
“We have suffered because it is logical to suffer at some point. They pressured us a lot at the end when they had nothing to lose and for a moment it seemed as if the clock had stopped, but it is human to suffer.”
Full-back Jordi Alba also highlighted Messi as the decisive factor in the match but believes Granada have improved sufficiently in recent weeks to give them more than a fighting chance of surviving the drop.
“It is good that his numbers keep improving for him and for the team, which is the most important thing. Today it was difficult for us, but at the end Leo has decided it,” he said.
“We have already seen that Granada is a team capable of beating Real Madrid. They have signed very good players in the January window and the team has changed a lot,” he said.
“We played very well in the second-half and we go away happy having achieved a victory at a very difficult ground to go to.”
Ighalo had prodded Granada into a shock lead with virtually their first attack of the game, but Messi's moment arrived five minutes into the second period as he pounced after Tono had failed to hold Cesc Fabregas' effort.
And soon after the Argentine had his 301st goal as he curled home a sumptuous free-kick.
Roura had taken the opportunity to rest Andres Iniesta ahead their Champions League tie with AC Milan in midweek, whilst Xavi was again missing through injury.
Granada boss Luis Alcaraz though was disappointed not to take anything from the game after producing what he described as a better performance than in their win over Real Madrid two weeks ago.
“We've done more than we did against Real Madrid, but every game is distinct and we haven't won,” said Alcaraz.
“We have to be positive. I thought this game could be won and the team had their chances. There's a lot we can take from this game. We took Barcelona to the limit.
“It leaves a slightly sour taste we haven't been able to take a point, but we have to think of the future.”
Victory extended Barca's lead at the top to 15 points over Atletico Madrid and 19 over Real Madrid with both capital clubs in action against Valladolid and Rayo Vallecano respectively on Sunday.
Earlier Malaga tightened their stranglehold on fourth place with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao thanks to Javier Saviola's first-half strike.
Getafe were also 3-1 victors over Celta Vigo to move up to 11th and leave the Galicians still rooted in the bottom three after a third consecutive defeat. – Sapa-AFP