After a massive victory against Gladbach midweek, Luis Enrique and his men traveled to Pamplona for the away fixture against Osasuna. On the surface, this game appeared to be easy pickings for the European juggernauts; the Catalans were six points adrift from their eternal rivals, and were hoping to collect all three points against the worst performing club in La Liga so far. Could Los Rojillos pull out a surprise?
The atmosphere at El Sadar was electric from the go! Known for it’s hostile, noisy setting, support for the Reds was aggressive, and it looked like the home side wasn’t going to go down without a fight.
In the opening moments of the game, an early opportunity fell to the home side, as Sergio Leon received a dangerous through, but Gerard Pique was on hand to tackle at the final moment and send the ball behind the line for a corner.
After 8 minutes of play, a great lobbed ball from Messi found Luis Suarez who turned on his marker’s shoulders, before going one on one with the keeper but the angle was too tight. The Uruguayan got his shot off which slipped past the keeper and went just wide. The Blaugrana looked to be opening up space on the wide pitch of El Sadar and the tone for the rest of the match looked to be slowly setting in.
A few minutes later, Samuel Umtiti made a great play as he made a run past midfield to find Jordi Alba with a driving vertical through-ball. The Spaniard made a quick cross in the penalty area to a loitering Luis Suarez, who used his body weight to hold off his marker. With no options in support, the Uruguayan made a quick turn to take a shot, but the incredibly tight angle on a dead ball forced his shot to bounce off the post
The chances continued to pile on for Barca as Sergi Roberto put Luis Suarez on goal. The striker drew the opposition defence onto himself, before teeing the ball to an open Lionel Messi. The Argentine’s powerful drive, clicked the ankles of a spread out Perez, before going behind for a corner that amounted to nothing.
Soon after the previous play, Messi was once more on the receiving end of an Arda Turan cross at the sixteen-minute mark. The Turk had made a beautifully weighted delivery into the box, that required little to no work from the Argentine striker. However, Messi met the ball with a soft header that fell straight to the keeper.
As if things weren’t frustrating enough, another chance for Messi was laid to waste, as Sergi Roberto made a slicing pass to Luis Suarez on the right, who had a charging Messi in support. The ball was squared, and Messi’s first touch was sublime. Having had experience with the keeper’s ankles, Messi tried to chip the ball over, but was denied again by another excellent save.
In a rare Osasuna attack, the Reds managed a cross from the right flank that glided past Gerard Pique and fell to De las Cuevas. A quick delivery to the centre drifted teasingly beyond Ter Stegen to the far post; there was no one to make it count. After a large stretch of possession play for the Catalans, this was Osasuna’s first real chance of the game and one had to wonder, how more they could create.
The clock continued to tick, and Barca continued to put pressure on Los Rojillos defence.
As the referee blew the whistle for half time, Osasuna would have been pleased, to finally get a breather.
Plenty of early chances fell to the Blaugrana as the game resumed after the break.
Riera went on a great solo run in a quick counter-attack, and took a dangerous shot from thirty yards off, which rattled the cross bar. If it wasn’t for the woodwork, the Catalans could have been behind in a shock move.
Barcelona were quick to recover however, and continued to play a 3-5-2 with an overcrowded midfield.
At the hour mark, after a long stretch of possession, Messi sliced the defence to find Jordi Alba. The full-back squared the ball towards the far post, into the path of an arriving Suarez who finished the move off with a simple tap-in making it 0-1.
Having broken the deadlock, the Blaugrana looked firmly in control. A weaving run from Sergi Roberto found Messi. The Argentine went on a mazy run of his own before pulling back, and teeing a shot for himself through Osasuna’s defensive wall, but it was straight at the goal-keeper.
After 72 minutes of game time, Lionel Messi finally found the back of the net to make it 0-2. Denis slipped the ball to Alba on the overlap who made an early cross to Messi. The forward made another chipped attempt on goal, but this time, his shot dipped into the bottom corner.
To add some sweetness to a frustrating night, the Argentine would increase his tally for the night with a sensational, almost inhumane finish in the dying moments of the game.
The referee had blown his whistle to call an end to the game.
Osasuna: Nauzet; Oier (Tano), Flaño (García), Márquez, Clerc; Cuevas, Torres, Causic, Berenguer; León, Riera (Kenan)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Piqué, Umtiti, Alba; Busquets, Gomes (Rafinha), Iniesta; Messi, Suárez, Arda (Denis)
Goals: Suárez (58'), Messi (72', 90+2')
While the first half of the season was characterised with impotent passing through the flanks, the last few weeks have shown a rejuvenated Barca that creates through the middle. Although one can argue that this match was slow, the kind of build-up that the team used– patient and intentional passing– as they looked to pry open Osasuna’s bus, is a sign of things to come.
It might take a while before this team reconnects with it’s identity, but it sure looks to be on course for an uprising.
Onward and upward.
What did you think of the game? Do you think this game was a positive? Let us know in the comments below!