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08-Nov-2020, 12:35 am

Magical Messi reminds Griezmann how to play football for Barcelona

Lionel Messi Antoine Griezmann Ronald Koeman Barcelona Betis 2020-21 GFX

Bixente Lizarazu has been just as baffled as everyone else by Antoine Griezmann's recent struggles in front of goal.

Griezmann's problems were no longer just tactical. As Lizarazu told Telefoot last month, "He no longer knows how to play football with the Barca jersey."

It wasn't quite that bad, of course. He hadn't quite forgotten how to play football; more forgotten how to finish.

It certainly felt that way during the first half of Saturday's Liga clash with Betis at Camp Nou.

Griezmann had already missed three presentable chances – criminally squandering an outrageous back-heel assist from Pedri in the process – when Barca were awarded a penalty.

With Lionel Messi on the bench, Griezmann was presented with a gilt-edged opportunity to score his first goal of the season.

The Argentine was willing his team-mate on from the stands but the Frenchman's weak spot-kick was easily pushed away by Claudio Bravo in the Betis goal.

What was left of Griezmann's confidence appeared to evaporate before our eyes, his disappointment compounded by the fact that Antonio Sanabria cancelled out Ousmane Dembele's fantastic opener right on the stroke of half-time.

Messi had been deemed in need of a rest. Ronaldo Koeman's assistant coach Alfred Schreuder simply stated, "He's just not fresh."

It was clear at the break that the captain was required, though, and not just to lift Griezmann, but to end a run of four games without a win in La Liga.

Within four minutes of his introduction, Messi had not only helped restore Barca's lead, but maybe also Griezmann's confidence.

He did so without touching the ball.

Jordi Alba whipped over a low cross from the left but rather than try to lift the ball over the onrushing Bravo, Messi simply let it run through his legs, leaving Griezmann with an open goal.

Even the forlorn Frenchman wasn't going to miss from 12 yards out and with nobody guarding the net. It was a magical, game-changing moment.

Messi scored his fifth penalty of the season to extend Barca's lead and even though Loren Moreno pulled one back for Betis, the Barca skipper smashed home his first goal from open play to make it 4-2.

It was Sergi Roberto who put the No.10 through to score and it was Sergi Roberto who teed up Pedri for the game's final goal.

The final scoreline was arguably a reflection of the game. Barca had dominated the first half, it was just their finishing – or perhaps more accurately Griezmann's finishing – that let them down.

His goal should help him, then. But he'll know full well that it wouldn't have happened without Messi on the pitch.

Whether Griezmann can really thrive in this Barca attack remains very much open to debate.

For so long, he really has looked like a player who's forgotten how to play football in a Barcelona shirt.

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