MADRID (Reuters) – Barcelona snatched a late 2-1 win at Getafe with Paulinho’s strike sending them seven points clear of arch-rivals Real Madrid at the top of La Liga on Saturday.
The Brazilian midfielder’s signing was widely criticised by supporters but he ran on to Lionel Messi’s pass, drove into the area and fired home with six minutes remaining to preserve Barcelona’s 100 percent record in the league.
Later Atletico Madrid celebrated the inauguration of their new stadium with a 1-0 win over Malaga, Antoine Griezmann’s 60th-minute goal delighting the sell-out Wanda Metropolitano.
At the Coliseum Alfonso Perez, Gaku Shibasaki scored a magnificent volley to put Getafe ahead in the 39th minute but another substitute, Denis Suarez, equalised for Barcelona in the 62nd.
“It’s important for them (Suarez and Paulinho) from a personal point of view. It gives them confidence,” said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde.
“Them scoring shows that the squad has depth and that we have a lot of players who can contribute. Both of them get forward and they both have goals in them.”
Barcelona were dealt a blow when record signing Ousmane Dembele was forced off with a hamstring injury in the 29th minute.
“We think it’s a tear but we will do more tests tomorrow,” said Valverde. “It’s a shame because he was just getting up to scratch with the team’s dynamic. We hope he won’t be out for a long time.”
Suarez was introduced at halftime, after captain Andres Iniesta had made little impact, and soon made his presence felt.
Receiving the ball from Sergi Roberto in the area, Suarez curled a neat finish past Guaita to level, against the run of play.
Paulinho came on in the 77th minute and seven minutes later he slammed home to put Barcelona ahead and extend their lead at the top of the table.
“Those are my qualities, arriving from deep to score goals. I am really happy with the pass from Leo and with the winning goal,” said Paulinho.
At the Metropolitano, an opening ceremony involving parachutists and reminders of Atletico’s history and previous homes, including the Vicente Calderon, gave way to a tight match.
Bottom-of-the-table Malaga held their own but eventually Atletico’s pressure told, with Angel Correa beating his man on the right and crossing for Griezmann to fire home from close range.
Champions Real Madrid, who are lying 11th, travel to second-placed Real Sociedad on Sunday.