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El Sadar has traditionally been an awkward road trip for FC Barcelona and this Tuesday’s visit was no exception. A goal down and a man down, and a very important man too, things were looking very edgy indeed after the first 30 minutes. But the team fought back in the face of adversity and are coming home from Pamplona with three very precious points indeed.
Following Real Madrid’s defeat at Rayo Vallecano the night before, Barça know that at least until the World Cup is over, they will be sitting at the top of the Liga table. For the moment, the difference is five points, although Madrid have one game in hand.
The home side took the lead after just seven minutes. There was a big question of a foul on Marcos Alonso in the build-up, but David García’s goal stood and Barça were playing catch-up practically from the start.
Osasuna were looking to go third in the table and were showing exactly why they are in such a lofty position. And Barça’s mission only got harder when Robert Lewandowski, already cautioned, received a second yellow and his team were left with just ten men.
The worrying thing was not just that the Navarrans were ahead, but they were looking comfortably so. And Barça had lost their star striker.
Gerard Piqué would also get a red card without even coming on for his last game in a Barça shirt. The referee produced a red card for dissent in the tunnel, which meant an opportunity for young Moroccan Chadi Riad to make his debut at centre back towards the end of the game.
But despite being a man down, the Catalans worked their way back into the game. And they did so majestically.
Ferran Torres had already had a goal disallowed for offside when, minutes after the break, an unmarked Pedri was on the end of a typically well-measured pass from Jordi Alba. End we were back level! One-one. Game on.
Ter Stegen did have to make a particularly brilliant save to deny Aimar Oroz, but Barça were coping better than ever with the situation. They were now looking a lot more like likely to score than their hosts. And with just five minutes to go, they did!
Top of the league!
Frenkie de Jong floated the ball forwards and substitute Raphinha astutely opted for a first-time header that rose right over Osasuna keeper Aitor Fernández's head and flopped straight down between the sticks. A little piece of Brazilian magic and that was an absolutely critical three points in the bag.
A glorious result brings and end to the club season for the next few weeks. Attention now switches to Qatar, and Barça will resume their campaign with a New Year’s Eve derby at home to Espanyol.
And they’ll be doing so as league leaders!
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