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La Liga

Paulinho The Hero As Barcelona Pip Getafe

Paulinho Barcelona
GETAFE, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 16: Paulinho of FC Barcelona celebrates with teammates after scoring his team's 2nd goal during the La Liga match between Getafe and Barcelona at Coliseum Alfonso Perez on September 16, 2017 in Getafe, . (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

A late strike from Paulinho helped Barcelona earn a dramatic comeback 2-1 victory over Getafe on Saturday afternoon at the Estadio Coliseum Alfonso Perez in Getafe.

Shibasaki, the man who gave Real Madrid fits in last December’s Club World Cup final when he scored a brace, added Barcelona to his list of big-name victims when he thundered home a volley toward the end of the first-half. But substitutes Denis Suarez and Paulinho would prove decisive for Barcelona, first with Denis equalising in the 62nd minute and then Paulinho’s 84th minute winner.

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While Lionel Messi did not have the performance that he’s enjoyed in the early stages of the season, the Argentine was pivotal, assisting Paulinho on the winning goal to continue Barcelona’s perfect start to the league season, with four wins in four matches.

There was just one change in Ernesto Valderde’s starting XI from the midweek victory over Juventus, at right-back where Sergi Roberto came in for Semedo.

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Barcelona’s uncomfortable start was a sign of things to come. Getafe were snapping at the heels of their illustrious visitors and disrupted Barcelona’s attempts to find an early rhythm. Valverde’s men were also sloppy and Getafe came achingly close to breaking the deadlock early on when Shibasaki’s deep cross from the left deflected off Gerard Pique and rolled right in front of goal. Jorge Molina lunged to push the ball in at the back post, but missed by inches.

An already tough afternoon became even more complicated for Barcelona midway through the first-half when new arrival Ousmane Dembele slumped to the turf clutching his left hamstring. The high-priced Frenchman had to leave the match and was ultimately replaced by Gerard Deulofeu.

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Neither Andres Iniesta nor Messi were having much of an impact. Any time either received the ball, they were swarmed by at least two Getafe players, effectively shutting off any creative valve for the Barcelona attack.

There was a sense that a Getafe goal could come, and when it did, it was spectacular. A Getafe free kick in the Barcelona half was headed back by Markel Bergara, and the ball fell perfectly for Shibasaki, who ripped a left-footed volley that Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen had no chance at saving, giving Getafe a 1-0 lead.

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Messi tried to pull Barcelona level right before the break through a free-kick, but Getafe goalkeeper Vicente Guaita soared to his right and made a stop at the last possible moment to deny the Argentine the equaliser.

Valverde made one change to start the second half, swapping off Iniesta for Denis Suarez, but still Barcelona were having difficulty unlocking Getafe’s sturdy defence.

Finally though, just after the hour mark, Barcelona’s efforts paid off. Deulofeu kept a ball alive deep in the Getafe end, which Sergi Roberto scooped up and played back to Denis Suarez. The substitute took a touch and calmly curled a right-footer into the top left corner of the net to make it 1-1.

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With nearly 30 minutes remaining, Barcelona could smell a go-ahead goal, but Getafe kept their nerve, turning away the Catalonians each time they attacked. Valverde’s last change arrived with a quarter-hour left, with Paulinho replacing Ivan Rakitic.

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Getafe fancied a victory themselves and a deflected Mauro Arambarri shot almost snuck in past Ter Stegen at the near post. However, just when the hosts thought that a winner could be had, Barcelona struck on the counter to silence the Coliseum.

The man who set it all up, of course, was Messi. The Argentine surged into the Getafe half and found Paulinho, who then did extremely well to fight through two Getafe defenders before firing in a right-footed shot past Guaita for the winning strike.

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