FC Barcelona recovered from a lacklustre first half performance to win 2-1 against a stubborn Osasuna side, ensuring a 6-1 aggregate victory. Dejan Lekic took advantage of a loose ball to briefly give the crowd some hope, but the Blaugrana returned after the break playing much better and Alexis Sanchez equalised with a diving header before Sergi Roberto scored the winner to set up the quarter-final Clasicos against Real Madrid.
Pep Guardiola unsurprisingly chose to rest a plethora of star names for the visit to the Reyna de Navarra, although most still made the bench, perhaps with the Getafe tie from 2007 lingering in his thoughts. That night Barcelona relinquished a healthy three goal advantage from the first leg to lose 4-0 in the second, so there were some similarities.
As the game kicked off, no-one even entertained the thought of a shock, unless for comedic value. However, Barcelona were far from their best. Pedro was making the most of his start, showcasing his usual work-rate in search of the ball, and he forced the first save of the match on five minutes. Cutting inside from his left-wing position he unleashed a powerful shot, but Riesgo was equal to it, tipping it over the bar without too much problem.
From there on in, it started to get progressively worse. First Andreu Fontas lost possession inside the Barcelona half, and in the process injured his right knee. Fontas still made the tackle to clear the danger, but it has been rumoured that the Catalan has injured his right cruciate ligament. That is certainly bad news if true, and almost certainly ends his season prematurely. Eric Abidal was his replacement, and performance-wise, he didn’t fare too much better.
Trying to play his way out of danger, Abidal lost possession inside the Barcelona box. The subsequent effort off the cutback was headed off the line by the Gerard Pique, before a follow-up effort was saved well by Jose Pinto. It was a let off for Barcelona and Abidal in particular.
Dejan Lekic was the next player to have a good chance to score, but his venomous volley sailed just wide, much to the relief of Pinto. Barcelona were creating little with their masses of possession, and it wasn’t as though Osasuna were defending too well either. Pedro again found enough space for a shot, but his effort ricocheted off Alexis Sanchez and Pique before forcing a decent reaction save out of Riesgo.
Then Osasuna took the lead. It was Sergi Roberto who was caught in possession by the impressive Raoul Loe, and the ball fell kindly to Dejan Lekic who couldn’t miss this time around. Pinto did get something to the shot, but it was too powerful to parry clear and Osasuna were ahead. Against all the odds, the crowd began to think about a comeback.
No doubt Guardiola expressed his deepest anger about the first half showing, as Barcelona returned much the better side. The possession now had a purpose and they began to create the odd chance. Turns out, the odd chance was all they needed.
Mere three minutes into the half, Adriano picked out the run of Alexis with a magnificent swerving cross that cannot be suitably described with the English language (it was that good) and Sanchez met it with a diving header to equal the scoreline. It was the Chilean first headed goal for Barcelona, but all the plaudits should go to Adriano for that sublime driven cross.
Sanchez was the first substitution of the second half for Barcelona, and he was replaced by none other than Lionel Messi. It was the first appearance since his third consecutive Ballon D’Or win, and his mere presence was enough to lift the team. Everything he did was cool and calculated to perfection, much unlike the weekend (when it mattered) although I suppose we have to settle for the odd average showing in between 30 or so awesome performances.
As a precaution Pedro was subbed off holding his hamstring, although I hope it was only as a precaution. At this point in time, I would suggest that Pedro is unlikely to feature on Saturday, but we have to wait for the medical tests tomorrow to confirm or disprove any injury.
The game dragged on towards the latter stages, although there was enough time for Barcelona to find a winner. Lionel Messi stopped on the edge of the box with multiple defenders within a two metre radius, and he punished them all for ball-watching as he played an inch-perfect weighted through ball to Sergi Roberto. It was a glorious pass, but left Roberto with a lot of work to do. Luckily, this kid is a decent finisher. Firing a left-footed effort into the far corner, it all looked too easy for the 19 year-old, and who knows? Maybe he will receive a little more game time as one of the "form strikers"?
Barcelona played out the remainder of the time without too much incidence, maybe there could have been a third goal as Messi’s free-kick/cross was spilled by Riesgo, but no-one reacted quickly enough and Barca settled for the win. Next up is Real Betis in a must-win league match at the Camp Nou while Real Madrid faces a tricky trip to the Iberostar to face Mallorca. Then, it’s Clasico time.
Man of the match today goes to Lionel Messi, plainly because he was the best player on the field, and by some distance. Kudos to Pedro though as prior to his injury he played rather well. For Osasuna, credit has to go to Raoul Loe for his athletic performance, but ultimately, he tired towards the end much like his team.