FC Barcelona slumped to yet another away defeat, this time 3-2 at the hands of Osasuna. The loss leaves the Blaugrana seven points behind arch-rivals Real Madrid in the title race having played a game more. In other words, unless Real Madrid lose tomorrow, the league is all but over. Osasuna raced into an early lead courtesy of Dejan Lekic, before the Serbian doubled his tally on 22 minutes with a tap-in. Barcelona pulled one back after half-time thanks to Alexis Sanchez, but Osasuna restored their two-goal advantage thanks to Raul Garcia. Pep Guardiola’s team did threaten to pull off an improbable comeback when Cristian Tello scored to make it 3-2, but deservedly Osasuna walked away with the three points.
Guardiola’s team selection was fairly surprising given the UEFA Champions League encounter with Bayer Leverkusen on my mind at least, and by the end of the match, we were left baffled. Not because guys like Thiago and Sergi Roberto started, but instead because Pedro started, and depressingly, because Gerard Pique and (I write this with a heavy heart) Carles Puyol were in central defense. The frozen pitch and the weather conditions played their part, but unfortunately, the real problem was the sheer complacency and stubbornness on display in the first 45 minutes. That is where the damage was done.
Barcelona attempted to pressure their opponents as per usual, and Osasuna played around them. Both Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol were watching the ball instead of "their player" and as a result, they were both beaten to the ball in quick succession, with Raul Garcia beating Puyol to flick the ball to Dejan Lekic, and the Serbian was confident enough to slot the ball past Victor Valdes to gift his side the lead.
It was a hammer blow to the Catalans, but at this stage, it wasn’t the end of the world, especially with 85 minutes left on the clock. There was nearly an instant reply as well, with Thiago threading a delightful through ball to Alexis Sanchez, but the Chilean was (wrongly) judged to be offside, and his subsequent finish did not matter. Of course, we are Barcelona though, so this clearly wrong decision will have to be swept aside with no consequences...
Serge Roberto was playing well, all things considering and he set up Lionel Messi on the right, who cut inside and tested the keeper with a decent long-range shot, but ultimately didn’t cause him too many problems. Then Osasuna made everything a whole lot worse. Cejudo delivered a pin-point low cross, and there at the far post was Dejan Lekic to tap the ball into the net from six yards out. The build-up play was pretty exquisite, while the Serbian’s finish was something Barcelona lacked in their play during the match. That was pretty much the last event of note in the first half. That’s simply how poor Barcelona were. Recently we have been treated to some real poor displays, but they still found a way to surprise us with a whole new level of crap. Hooray...
Isaac Cuenca and Cristian Tello were introduced after half-time for Pedro and Carles Puyol respectively. Surprisingly, both were a marked improvement, with Isaac Cuenca taking just five minutes to send in a low cross that Alexis Sanchez tapped in at the far post. It was a similar goal to Lekic’s second, and at the point, I foolishly thought it would be a turning point in the match and possibly our season. Cruel, cruel hope.
Raul Garcia restored the two-goal advantage just four minutes later, and with it went Barcelona’s title aspirations. Cesc Fabregas replaced Gerard Pique and too made an impact by assisting Cristian Tello’s fantastically taken goal. Cutting in from the right he smashed the ball into the roof of the net and temporarily restored some hope, but Barcelona could not get the equaliser, let alone the winner that they so desperately needed. Guess it’s the Champions League or bust for us this season.
¡Visca el Barca!