FC 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 to make hay.
He drove into the area and fired home with six minutes remaining to preserve FC Barcelona’s 100 percent record in the league.
Gaku Shibasaki scored a magnificent volley to put Getafe ahead in the 39th minute but another substitute, Denis Suarez, equalised for FC Barcelona in the 62nd minute.
“It’s important for them (Suarez and Paulinho) from a personal point of view. It gives them confidence,” said FC Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde.
“Their 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.”
Valverde’s side struggled to create many openings against a bold Getafe, who came close to opening the scoring.
This was when Gerard Pique nearly deflected Shibasaki’s cross into his own net, with Jorge Molina reaching it but firing into the side netting from point-blank range.
FC 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.”
Samuel Umtiti’s header straight at Vicente Guaita was as close as the Catalans came to netting in the first half.
The exception was a Messi free-kick tipped over just before the break.
Suarez was introduced at halftime, after captain Andres Iniesta had made little impact, and he 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 FC 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.
Getafe almost equalised with Marc-Andre ter Stegen tipping Mauro Arambarri’s effort wide at the near post but they were left without reward after an impressive display.
Champions Real Madrid, who are lying in 11th place, travel to second-placed Real Sociedad on Sunday.(Reuters/NAN)