Lionel Messi on song once again as Barcelona keep spirited Getafe at bay to climb to top

Antoine Griezmann scores at Camp Nou to take team level with leaders Real Madrid on points

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Second-placed Barcelona took their time to work through their gears against third-placed Getafe, but first half goals from Antoine Griezmann and Sergi Roberto pushed them back onto the same points as Real Madrid ahead of the leaders' match against Celta Vigo on Sunday evening.

Lionel Messi assisted his sixth consecutive Barcelona goal in only three matches and played a hand in the second too – delighting his new boss Quique Setien.

This third straight, hard-fought league win has come in difficult times for the Catalans, who have been unable to bring a striker in to compensate for the injured Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele, for whom a six-month absence was confirmed on Thursday. His teammates wore shirts with his name in support.

Lionel Messi criticising sporting director and former teammate Eric Abidal, the bungled dismissal of Ernesto Valverde and a Copa del Rey elimination darkened the mood at Camp Nou. But it brightened on a sunny February afternoon against a Getafe side who were the greater threat for the first third.

Getafe have been the surprise package of La Liga. With average home crowds of only 11,114, the team from a Madrid satellite town have a better away record than Barcelona. The Catalans have struggled away but they did inflict Getafe’s first home defeat of the season in September.

Getafe finished second from bottom of the second division when coach Jose Bordalas took charge in 2016. He won promotion and followed it up with an impressive eighth and then a fifth place finish last season, narrowly missing out on a Champions League place. An April defeat in the equivalent fixture prevented a top four finish.

Bordalas, who endures an antagonistic relationship with Setien and who didn’t shake his hand pre-match, has worked on a limited budget and Getafe, who are still in the Europa League, are on target to play Champions League football for the first time ever. Beating rivals Valencia 3-0 last week helped and they are doing so without star names and using a front three of Angel Rodriguez, Jamie Mata and Jorge Molina, the 37-year-old captain. Their combined age is 100.

Bordalas bristles at suggestions that his team are defensive and insists they are fast, direct and attacking. Barcelona, who are desperate to sign a striker themselves, are trying to sign Getafe’s Rodriguez.

Bordalas’ view of his team was spot on as they started the better of the two, stretching the Barcelona defence and putting the ball in the net after 22 minutes via defender Nyom. Unfortunately the former Watford and West Brom had fouled Samuel Umtiti on the way. VAR disallowed the effort, but Getafe continued to attack with Marc Cucurella, a 21-year-old Catalan on loan from Barcelona, shooting wide after 26 minutes.

He was the best of all Barcelona’s La Masia graduates on the field and it wasn’t a one off as Molina skewed a shot wide when clean through and Mata had a chance.

Barca got the breakthrough after 33 minutes, a magical Messi ball came when he wasn’t even looking forward. Griezmann ran towards the ball and looked like he was going to shoot with the right foot before poking the ball over Soria with the left for his 13th goal of the season. Griezmann has been involved in seven goals in his last eight games against Getafe.

Barcelona went 2-0 up five minutes later when Messi fed Junior Firpro, on for the injured Jordi Alba, and the full-back crossed low to Sergi Roberto to place the ball neatly into the goal.

The hosts had hit their stride and a Messi header came close before half time, but Getafe were far from finished and showed why they’re so high in the table. Rodriguez made it 1-2 after 66 minutes with Getafe’s first goal at Camp Nou since 2014 as he superbly volleyed a cross inside Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s near post. The German didn’t move.

Nerves began to fray in the 80,409 crowd after 71 minutes when the Ter Stegen just about kept efforts from Rodriguez and then Mauro Arambarri in front of the line, while the profligate Griezmann blasted the ball over with only Soria to beat two minutes later before striking wide after 76 minutes.

Getafe looked as dangerous as they had at the start and sustained appeals for a penalty after Gerard Pique pulled Mata back saw an assistant coach sent off, but Barcelona held on for a second consecutive 2-1 home win and four wins out of five for their new boss and 24 games unbeaten at home.