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Decepció al camp de l'Osasuna. FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB.

Barça are further than ever from retaining their league title after losing at the Reyno de Navarra. The visitors struggled to get into their stride in a game played on a freezing evening on a pitch in appalling condition. But Osasuna did a far better job of interpreting the situation, and went 2-0 up early on. Barça came out much stronger after the break and had Osasuna pegged back in their own half for most of what remained of the game. At moments it looked like the Catalans might be able to turn things around, but ultimately they were missing the luck they needed to get anything positive out of a frustrating game.

Deep freeze

Things couldn't have started worse from a Barça point of view, for only four minutes had passed when Osasuna went 1-0 up through Lekić, who converted a wonderful assist from Raúl García after a delightful combination move. Barça sought an immediate reaction. Messi, from the right (where the pitch wasn't in quite such an awful state), was the first to threaten goalkeeper Andrés Fernández with a long range effort. Despite the uneven surface and Osasuna advancing their lines considerably, Barcelona still opted to play the ball from the back. But in those conditions, the passing game wasn't always going to be easy.

Osasuna extend lead

Osasuna's second goal came from a textbook play. Raúl García, possibly in an offside position, received the ball wide and sent a pinpoint cross to Cejudo, with Lekić finishing the move with his second goal of the night. The home side had only come close to the Barcelona goal twice, and had managed to score both times. From then on, Barça did start managing to produce their typical possession football, but were making an uncharacteristically large number of unforced errors. However, Messi managed to be as threatening as ever, and could have scored with the best Barça chance of the half, but his low drive was not enough to defy an impeccable Andrés.

Potential comeback

After half time, Pep Guardiola sent on Cuenca and Tello for Puyol and Pedro, while sticking to his 4-3-3 system. And his players clearly felt that the three points could still be won. The first sign of that was a terrific Messi strike that the home keeper just managed to push over for a corner. But moments later, a much more inspired Barça finally hit the target in the 51st minute when Alexis Sánchez slammed home a sensational cross from the right by Cuenca. But for the umpteenth time in this championship, fortune was not on Barcelona's side. A defensive mix-up shortly after the restart resulted in Osasuna restoring their two-goal lead at 3-1, this time thanks to Raúl García.

Tello generates hope

But the defending champions refused to throw in the towel. They bravely battled on in search of the miracle, and certainly had enough chances to get it. Guardiola threw caution to the wind by sending on Cesc for Pique, and just moments later Tello pulled one back with a beautifully struck goal. Even though Osasuna immediately responded with Puñal hitting the post, the Barcelona goal evidently knocked much of the confidence out of the Navarran side. There was still hope for Barça.

Gripping but unfortunate end

In the 78th minute, Tello was through on the goalkeeper and would have hoped to have scored, and shortly after Alexis had a goal disallowed, although it is doubtful whether Sergi Roberto's head really did touch the ball and therefore leave the Chilean in an offside position. Then , in the fourth minute of injury time, Cesc came frustratingly close to heading home a corner but Andrés was once again there to save the day for Osasuna. It was a disappointing evening in Pamplona for FC Barcelona, made all the worse when Mascherano was shown a red card for a second bookable offence after the final whistle had blown.

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