Barcelona added 3 valuable points to their tally after a 1-2 victory against Osasuna at the Reyno de Navarra in Matchday 2 of La Liga. Lionel Messi scored both goals for the Blaugranas.
Barcelona were slow at the start of the game, barely able to contain the very impetuous home side. Just when the Blaugranas were beginning to shake off the pressure from their very lively opponents, the goal came. Lamah crossed from the left, and Joseba Llorente scored with a sneaky finish.
The rest of the first half was, to put it simply, quite poor. The ball wasn't flowing at the required speed, passing was inaccurate at times. Our forwards were only being found when wide open in the wings, which forced Lionel Messi to drop back into midfield far too often in order to participate.
The Iniesta-Cesc combination in midfield was obviously not working, perhaps due to the fact that they are both anarchic players who would much rather run into attacking positions than pace the game. Without a clear reference in midfield apart from Sergio Busquets, Barcelona were forced to rely on long balls, which were highly ineffective. I found myself hoping Xavi would come in to sort the mess out as soon as possible.
Barcelona knew a loss today could potentially mean losing the La Liga title in the long run. Yes, I know the season just started but dropping points against the so called "minor" teams was the key to not winning the title last season. Our team had to improve in the second half, no question about it.
The game didn't change much after the break though. Barcelona had possession but constant annoying mistakes were slowing us down: Sloppy passes, defensive lapses, slow transitions from defence to attack. A clear example was when Sergio Busquets was dispossessed while trying to dribble just outside our own box. We were extremely lucky that Osasuna hit the post with their subsequent shot, as a 2-0 deficit would have probably been too much to overcome considering the poor performance we were displaying at that stage.
Tito Vilanova then introduced Xavi, Pedro and David Villa, giving Barcelona a much-needed boost in terms of speed, quality and desire. This visible improvement saw the Blaugranas creating many more chances, chasing the goal more assertively. As a result, Messi was able to find the net twice before the final whistle.
In the end, Barcelona had 68 percent possession and shot 15 times on goal, 10 of them on target.
La Liga was not won today, but a loss would have definitely damaged our chances of lifting the trophy at the end of the season. This victory, after a very uncomfortable match, means that Tito Vilanova's project continues to go strong and, combined with Real Madrid's 2-1 defeat at Getafe, leaves the Blaugranas 5 points clear off Los Blancos in the La Liga table.
A great result!
Victor Valdes – 7 - A solid performance after his horrific mistake in midweek against Real Madrid.
Dani Alves – 7 - The Brazilian was key in the later stages, joining our attack incisively despite having defended the very lively Lamah for most of the match.
Carles Puyol - 6 - El Capita was exposed at times and lacked the required speed to stop the Osasuna forwards. Highly spirited performance as usual, though.
Gerard Pique - 6 - The Catalan Giant defended well but abused from long passes at times.
Jordi Alba - 7 - The Roadrunner's poor marking allowed Llorente to score Osasuna's goal, but then assisted Messi for the winner.
Sergio Busquets – 5 - The Octopus wasn't always able to connect with Cesc and Iniesta as fast as he should have, slowing the game down as a result. His dribbling attempt in front of the box could have cost us the match.
Cesc Fabregas - 5 - I honestly failed to see how his inclusion on the starting lineup helped the team today. Slow, out of place, unable to provide Messi with any clear chances. Must improve in the near future.
Andres Iniesta - 6 - El Blanquito missed Xavi enormously and couldn't speed the game up when needed. Missed at least 3 clear goalscoring chances.
Alexis Sanchez - 7 - El Nino Maravilla was always dangerous and, as usual, was aggressive whenever we needed to regain possession of the ball.
Lionel Messi – 8 The Man Of The Match was forced to drop into midfield during large periods of the game but, as usual, was in the right place at the right time when it most mattered, scoring twice in the last 15 minutes.
Cristian Tello - 7 - The youngster kept facing his defender tirelessly, which is exactly what Tito Vilanova wants from him. Hit the post. Great speed, great attitude.
Xavi Hernandez - 7 - Came off the bench to add much needed stability to our midfield. Despite his age and ongoing injury troubles, he is still irreplaceable in this Barcelona team.
Pedro - 8 - The Micro-machine changed the game drastically with his speedy runs, dynamic positioning and desire.
David Villa - n/a - El Guaje didn't really have enough time to make an impact.
Tito Vilanova – 8 - Sent off for protesting a non-existent foul on Sergio Busquets, but won the game with the substitutions he made.
Have your say
What did you think of Barcelona's performance vs. Osasuna?
Who was your Man of the Match? What are your player ratings?
Did I miss out on any important points you would like to share with us?
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