Paulinho the hero for Barcelona against Getafe as Real Madrid’s in­jury woes mount

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Paulinho scored his first Barcelona goal six min­utes from time as the Cata­lan giants came from a goal down to win 2-1 at Getafe yes­ter­day and open up a seven-point lead over Real Madrid.

Barca were dealt a dou­ble blow be­fore half time as record sign­ing Ous­mane Dem­bele limped off with a ham­string in­jury be­fore Gaku Shibasaki’s sen­sa­tional vol­ley put Getafe in front.

How­ever, Barca re­sponded thanks to their sub­sti­tutes as both De­nis Suarez and Paulinho came from the bench to turn the game around.

Barca man­ager Ernesto Valverde made just one change from the side that swept aside Ital­ian cham­pi­ons Juventus 3-0 in the Uefa Cham­pi­ons League on Tues­day with Sergi Roberto re­plac­ing Nel­son Semedo at right-back.

Yet, rather than build­ing on the mo­men­tum of four straight wins, Barca looked slug­gish as Getafe en­joyed the bet­ter of the early stages.

The vis­i­tors’ flow was fur­ther dis­rupted when Dem­bele limped off with a re­ported ham­string in­jury that could see him side­lined for the com­ing weeks.

Barca had barely got 11 play­ers back on the field as Ger­ard Deulofeu re­placed the French­man, be­fore they fell be­hind.

Roberto’s headed clear­ance fell invit­ingly for Gaku Shibasaki to thun­der an un­stop­pable dip­ping vol­ley be­yond Marc-An­dre ter Ste­gen.

Valverde was forced into an­other change at the start of the sec­ond pe­riod as De­nis Suarez re­placed Ini­esta.

And it was the sub­sti­tute who in­spired Barca’s re­vival when he col­lected Roberto’s cut-back from the right wing be­fore bend­ing the ball high past Guaita into the top cor­ner.

The hosts were hit with a sucker punch when Paulinho burst onto Lionel Messi’s through ball and smashed the ball into the far cor­ner.

Toni Kroos added a fresh blow to a de­pleted Real Madrid ahead of to­day’s trip to in-form Real So­ciedad with the Ger­man mid­fielder the lat­est of sev­eral key play­ers ruled out.

Kroos missed train­ing yes­ter­day with a mi­nor mus­cle problem and joins the sus­pended Cris­tiano Ron­aldo and Marcelo and in­jured Karim Ben­zema, Ma­teo Ko­vacic and Je­sus Vallejo on the side­lines.

“Toni has felt dis­com­fort and we are not go­ing to risk any­thing,” Real Madrid man­ager Zine­dine Zi­dane said yes­ter­day. “In the course of the sea­son there are com­pli­cated mo­ments, and that’s what we have now with in­juries.”

So­ciedad, mean­while, are level with Barca at the top of the ta­ble af­ter their best start to a league sea­son since 1981.

Ron­aldo is ab­sent once more as he com­pletes his five-game do­mes­tic ban for push­ing a ref­eree in the Span­ish Su­per Cup.

“We need to think that this is our last game with Cris­tiano out,” Zi­dane said.

“To­mor­row we can’t count on many play­ers that nor­mally play, but I be­lieve in my play­ers that we will per­form well.”

AFP

Sub­sti­tute Paulinho com­pleted Barcelona’s fight­back

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