Barcelona have returned to winning ways and are back in third place in the La Liga table thanks to a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Osasuna at the Montjuïc Olympic Stadium on Wednesday evening. The Catalans struggled for most of the night against Osasuna’s defense even after the visitors went down to 10 men, but an inspired substitute cameo by young striker Vitor Roque decided the game and gave the Blaugrana three crucial points at home.
The game started with more bad injury news for Barça as Ferran Torres left the pitch in tears with a hamstring problem just five minutes into the match. Fermín López came on in his place and tried to impact the game with his movement and tenacity, but the Catalans really struggled to attack throughout the half against Osasuna’s 5-3-2 parked bus.
The Blaugrana only threatened through crosses and set pieces, with Robert Lewandowski and Jules Kounde each missing a couple of good headers and Fermín unable to finish a brilliant cross from Lamine Yamal that should have resulted in a goal.
Osasuna did almost nothing to offer any danger going the other way, with their only half-chance coming after a corner and a deflection that accidentally hit Ante Budimir’s head and almost went in. The entire first period was played at a painfully slow pace by both sides, and neither team deserved to be ahead at the break.
At halftime the game was goalless and boring and Barça showed the familiar struggles against a low block, and they badly needed some more intensity and a touch of inspiration to find a breakthrough in the second half.
The start of the second half brought more of the same from both sides as Osasuna stayed in their low block looking to keep frustrating Barça, while the Blaugrana showed very little urgency in their play and continued to struggle to create anything apart from a couple of dangerous crosses by Lamine Yamal.
But Xavi Hernández made an inspired substitution when Vitor Roque replaced Fermín, and the Brazilian needed just 90 seconds on the pitch to inject speed and life to the Barça attack and finish off their best passing sequence of the entire game, which ended with a cross by João Cancelo and a header by Roque to put the home team in front.
Roque made another key impact in the game shortly after his goal when he was fouled by Unai García to stop a promising attack, which led to a second yellow and a red card for the Osasuna captain. The visitors went down to 10 men just as they were making attacking substitutions to chase an equalizer, and Barça were suddenly in a strong position to get a second goal and confirm the victory.
But they were in serious danger of conceding an equalizer for a while as Osasuna had nothing to lose even with 10 men and threw plenty of bodies forward and created real chances to score, with Budimir hitting the post and Iñaki Peña making a strong save on a shot from distance as the visitors came very close to finding the back of the net.
Barça finally wrestled back control of the game and nearly doubled their lead with 10 minutes to go when Roque played it through to Lewandowski who scored a beautiful curler on the counter, but the Pole was just offside in the buildup and the goal was ruled out.
The home team did a good job running out the clock and avoiding a late blitz by Osasuna, and the final whistle came to give Barça three crucial points. It wasn’t a great game by any means and Barça once again struggled against a parked bus, but at this point in the season they just needed a win and some good news.
They got the win, and the good news is that Vitor Roque has arrived. The injuries in attack will mean an increased role for the Brazilian in the next few weeks, and his game-winning cameo off the bench will provide some much-needed confidence for a young man with obvious potential. Parabéns, Tigrinho!
Barcelona: Peña; Kounde, Araujo, Cubarsí, Cancelo; Pedri (Romeu 77’), De Jong; Yamal, Gündogan, Ferran (Fermín 7’ (Roque 62’)); Lewandowski
Goal: Roque (64’)
Osasuna: Fernández; Areso, U. García, D. García, Herrando, Mojica; Moncayola (Barja 83’), Torró (Ibáñez 83’), Aimar (Brasanac 68’); Budimir (Ru. García 68’), Arnáiz (Ra. García 68’)
Red Card: U. García (67’)