FC Barcelona dominated CA Osasuna and took out some revenge for the scoreless draw earlier in the season at El Sadar Stadium. Five different goalscorers; Lionel Messi, Alexis Sanchez, Andres Iniesta, Cristian Tello and Pedro combined for seven goals to complete the first seven goal performance since the season opener when the Catalans beat Levante by the same scoreline. The hero of the match was Messi who led the way with a hat-trick.
Shots on Target
Gerardo Martino made a few changes from the mid-week game against Manchester City, opting to start with Neymar and Cesc Fabregas on the bench. The two were replaced in the starting XI by Pedro and Alexis Sanchez. Gerard Pique was the other absentee in the lineup, but the defender was forced to watch the game from the stands as he was left out of the 18-man squad as a precaution. As a result of that Marc Bartra formed a partnership with Javier Mascherano in the heart of the defense.
The game started at a rather slow pace with Osasuna closing down space very well. The first shot of the game didn't come until the 6th minute when Alexis had a try from a difficult position but fired over the crossbar.
Slightly surprisingly, it wasn't all Barcelona in the early going as Osasuna also had their chances. In the 9th minute Emiliano Armenteros was left with some space a couple yards from the penalty box and fired a powerful shot on goal. Victor Valdes looked like he saw it a bit late, but still managed to prevent the ball from crossing the line. The rebound, however, fell right at the feet of Oriol Riera who tapped the ball in, but his celebration was cut short by the referee who correctly disallowed the goal for offside.
Barcelona struggled to assert their playing style with Osasuna playing very high pressure, often placing up to four men around Valdes' penalty area when the ball was at the feet of Barça's defenders.
But just before the 20 minute mark Barcelona launched a quick counter attack, started by a long pass from Jordi Alba to Pedro. Pedro took it all the way into the penalty area, and after a few quick passes Alexis sent a dangerous low pass in front of goal where Messi provided the necessary touch to put Barcelona in front.
That calmed the Barça nerves and the hosts started to play better, more decisive football. Still a bit shell-shocked from the goal Osasuna haven't even had the chance to recover from the goal before a second one was scored. Iniesta and Alba outplayed the defense on the left side which gave Alba time and space to find Alexis in front who made no mistake with the tip in into the empty net.
The tempo slowed down a bit for the next 10 minutes or so, but in the 34th minute another onslaught began. It started with an absolute golazo by Iniesta who fired an unstoppable left footed drive from outside of the penalty area. It was Iniesta's first goal from open play this season, with his only other tally coming from a penalty kick.
Barcelona followed up that goal with several scoring chances. First Dani Alves tried his luck with a bomb from 30-yards out, but his shot went straight into the hands of the Osasuna goalkeeper, Andres. Had that shot went to the either post it would've been two stunning goals in a matter of minutes. Just a couple minutes later Iniesta found a wide open Xavi on the right side who fired a first-time volley, but his shot was excellently saved by Andres.
Barça didn't necessarily step of the gas pedal for the last five minutes of the half, but they didn't create any more chances that would've surely been the final nail in Osasuna's coffin. Barcelona went into halftime with a commanding three goal lead, but probably the biggest story of the half was Barcelona's excellent play in all areas of the game. Offensively the Catalan side created several chances, but perhaps even more importantly, by my count, only allowed one good chance to Osasuna.
The second half began the same way the first ended. With what looked like relative ease, Barça created chance after chance. First a good passing play between Alba and Pedro sprung the latter but the shot went wide of the goal. A couple minutes later Alba found Iniesta in the middle, but his shot went right at Andres, who was able to make the save.
But despite the Barcelona domination, Osasuna occasionally still threatened Valdes' goal. The visitors created most of their scoring chances after poor plays in defense by the home side. In quick succession mistakes by Alba and Bartra gifted Osasuna scoring chances, but thankfully for Barcelona both chances went begging.
With the commanding lead in hand Tata Martino quickly, in the 62nd minute, decided to make his first substitution and gave Xavi some much needed rest. Alex Song came on to replace the Barcelona captain.
Merely a minute after the substitution Messi and Iniesta brilliantly combined in the penalty area to create a scoring chance for Messi who scored with a powerful drive. With the goal Messi became the top goalscorer in the history of FC Barcelona with 370 goals. A truly remarkable achievement, but when you consider Messi is only 26 years old it just seems ridiculous.
Barcelona continued look for more goals but there was no urgency in the game anymore. Still, chances continue to come for Barça, and with everybody looking to find Messi, a hat-trick for the Argentine seemed to be in the air. It appeared to come in the 70th minute when Pedro supplied a perfect cross to a wide open Messi in front of goal, but Messi showed that even he will miss one once in a while. Messi had another go on goal five minutes later, but his 20-yard shot was excellently parried by Andres.
In the 77th minute Tata Martino completed his second substitution, replacing Alexis with Cristian Tello. It was another very good game by Alexis who finished the game with a goal and an assist. But the man who replaced him didn't take long to get on the score-sheet. Not even a minute on the pitch Tello fired from 20-yards out and beat Andres to the far side to complete the Manita. It was Tello's first La Liga goal of the season.
But Barcelona was not done yet. The aforementioned Messi hat-trick was still uncompleted, but that changed in the 88th minute when Alves unselfishly passed the ball to Messi in the middle. Messi waited for the last defender and the goalkeeper to over-commit and simply sent the ball into the unguarded part of the net to complete the hat-trick.
But that was still not it for Barcelona who had one more goal to score. Alves once again found Messi in the box, who somehow got the ball to a wide open Pedro through three bodies. Pedro, despite missing some chances earlier in the game, made no mistake this time and completed the rout.
With the El Clasico coming up on Sunday this was a big statement game for Barcelona. Real Madrid might be coming into the game as the La Liga leaders, but they have been far from superior in recent weeks, and watching Barcelona dismantle Osasuna in this way should knock Real of their high horse a little bit.
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