Two matches, four goals. Lionel Messi wasn’t all that great once again; Barcelona were pretty bad for 70 minutes, struggling once again against Osasuna at the very difficult Estadio El Sadar, but their early goal wasn’t enough against Barca who improved during the second half and got a bit of help from the referee.
For about 70 minutes, until Xavi came in, it was a poor performance from Barcelona, heading towards their first defeat under Tito Vilanova, who later spoke the wrong words to the assistant referee and saw himself getting sent off. Osasuna’s pressure on Barcelona’s ball movement and possession gave us the indication the Barcelona will have the same problems in away matches if it doesn’t find a way to handle teams actually trying press them.
The first half was all Osasuna. Barcelona did get some chances here and there, but there was no order and actual direction. Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas failed to fill the Xavi role, while the maestro was sitting on the bench, and Lionel Messi was forced to drop back and go through too many players on his way to goal, which didn’t work. Joseba Llorente scored Osasuna’s goal from a tough angle; Javi Arribas, Sisi and Roland Lamah kept causin problems to the Barcelona defenders through the first and second half.
Eventually, Xavi came in and immediately everything changed. The first goal didn’t come from him, but his influence on the order in Barcelona’s game and style is tremendous, especially away from the Nou Camp. Suddenly everyone knows where they should be, and Lionel Messi feels free to roam where he’s more dangerous. A play that began with a Pedro offside ended with Messi being left alone in the middle of the box to give Barcelona the equalizer.
Osasuna were broken in a second. Arguing with the referee cost them Francisco Puñal, their captain, and Lionel Messi’s second goal was soon to arrive. Osasuna could only keep on fighting without much of a chance, settling for dirty fouls to vent away their frustration.
Barcelona didn’t play well, but already improved on one result from last season, when they lost to Osasuna 2-0. Titles aren’t only about being brilliant – it’s about being consistent, especially in the matches when things don’t go your way. For everything else, there’s Lionel Messi.