Barcelona won their final match before the break for the World Cup and are now five points ahead of Real Madrid at the top of the La Liga table thanks to an epic 2-1 victory away to Osasuna on Tuesday night. Barça had a terrible first half in which they conceded an early goal and saw Robert Lewandowski sent off, but showed incredible resilience in the second half to find the winning goals and pick up three gigantic points on the road against a very good Osasuna side that gave Barça all they could handle.
The first 45 minutes were about as bad as it could have been for Barça. They started badly, unable to get out of the Osasuna high press and losing easy balls in dangerous positions. The home team scored early, with David García heading home a corner from Rubén García to give them the lead.
But the goal shouldn’t have counted as Unai García ran through Marcos Alonso and committed a clear foul in the buildup, and somehow both the referee Jesús Gil Manzano and VAR ignored the foul and confirmed the call.
It took them a while to get into the game, but Barça started to play better and come close in a few occasions, but their poor decision-making in the final third let them down. Just as it seemed as though they were ready to take over, Robert Lewandowski was sent off for a second yellow card after receiving a very soft booking early in the game and Barça found themselves down to 10 men with over an hour to go.
The Blaugrana showed good resilience and played perhaps their best football while down to ten men, and almost scored an equalizer when Ferran Torres found the back of the net but saw his goal disallowed for offside.
At halftime, a poor Barça side were down a goal and a man and had a mountain to climb in the second half, and the unfair refereeing made their job even tougher.
Barça started the second half with a crucial equalizer: just three minutes in, Jordi Alba tried a cross from the left looking for Ferran and after a poor attempted clearance by Unai García it was Pedri who pounced on the rebound and made it 1-1.
Having socred a big goal early in the half, Barça decided to manage the game and started defending a lot deeper, conceding possession to Osasuna and staying compact and organized to conserve energy for the finish.
And with 15 minutes to go, Xavi Hernández went for it: the coach made a bold substitution taking off Andreas Christensen and putting in Gavi, which moved Frenkie De Jong to center-back to improve the passing from the back and try to create chances .
Xavi also brought on Raphinha, and it was the Brazilian who played the part of hero: after a a sensational ball over the top from De Jong, Raphinha showed amazing composure and headed the ball over the keeper to score an amazing goal and put the visitors ahead with five minutes to go.
The dying seconds of the game were all about survival as Osasuna sent everyone forward in search of a late equalizer, and the home team came close on a couple of occasions without any success. Barça did as well as they could to hold on to the ball and waste some time, and the final whistle came to end an epic night at El Sadar.
This is one of those victories you look back on at the end of the season, and these three points might just prove decisive in the title race. The resilience and fighting spirit from this team is amazing, and Xavi also deserves credit for his excellent substitutions in this one. It had all the makings of a horrible night, but Barça found a way. As champions do.
Osasuna: Aitor; Vidal, García, García, Cruz; Moncayola, Torró (Kike 59’); García (Peña 75’), Oroz (Brasanac 75’), Gómez (Barja 84’); Ávila (Budimir 84’)
Goal: D. García (6’)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Balde, Christensen (Gavi 74’), Alonso, Alba; Pedri (Riad 89’), Busquets, De Jong; Dembélé (Raphinha 78’), Lewandowski, Ferran (Fati 78’)
Goals: Pedri (48’), Raphinha (85’)
Red Cards: Lewandowski (31’), Piqué (Bench, HT)