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The unusually early kick-off time didn’t perturb FC Barcelona in the slightest in Pamplona this Saturday, although despite dominating from start to finish it took an hour for them to finally pierce the Osasuna net.
But there was no looking back from that moment on, and after a run of three straight draws in La Liga, that winning feeling is back thanks to convincing 3-0 victory. The three points not only come as a welcome boost to the team’s confidence but will also put a little extra pressure on leaders Real Madrid.
Chances go begging
Belying their lowly position in the league table, Osasuna came out with the clear intention of taking the game by its horns. But that’s easier said than done against Barça, and within minutes the home players were already being forced further and further back into their own half.
And with that came the first chances for Barça. Luis Suárez failed twice where he’d normally be expected to score, the second hitting the post, and Osasuna keeper Nauzet managed to get first a dangling foot and then an outstretched hand in the way of clear-cut opportunities for Leo Messi.
Barça could, maybe should, have been running away with this. But for the fourth time in a row, the first 45 minutes of a league fixture ended without score. Not only had the Navarran floodgates managed to stay firm against the torrent of Catalan pressure, but the home side had very nearly nicked a goal of their own when former Barça B man Oriol Riera narrowly failed to connect to a tap-in.
A goal at last!
There was another warning when Sergio Leon chipped the ball onto the Barça crossbar after the restart. But just when the chances looked to drying up for Barça, Luis Suárez came to the rescue. Nice team build-up, nice bit of skill from Messi, nice setup from Jordi Alba … and there was the Uruguayan to pop home his tenth goal of the league season… 1-0!
For the next thirteen minutes, Osasuna produced little in the way of a response. Instead, it was Barça who extended on their lead. Alba once again provided the decisive pass, this time for Messi to deftly redirect the ball goalward and Luis Enrique could breathe a sigh of relief. Barça had put some space between themselves and their opponents – and that was no less than they deserved.
Messi doubles up
El Sadar didn’t stop singing, but this game was going nowhere for the home side. The urgency went out of Barça’s game for the final quarter of an hour but even so, the remaining chances were all theirs.
And just when it looked like things were winding up for the day, Leo Messi produced the finest piece of magic of the whole game. Deep into injury time and with almost no space for manoeuvre, the Argentinian still managed to wiggle his way through the red shirts and pumped home the final nail in the Osasuna coffin.
Luis Enrique had said before the game that this was a must-win for his team. And the win is exactly what he got. There will be some happy faces on the flight back to Catalonia … and in a lot of other places in the world this Saturday!
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