La Liga Review: FC Barcelona 5, Osasuna 1. Back On Track Again!By: Ade C. | January 28th, 2013
After the apocalyptic disgrace that was losing to Real Sociedad and the hard-won mid-week Málaga clash, a nice sparring session against Osasuna was just what the doctor would have ordered, if the doctor weren’t too busy trying to work out how JDS got injured when Tito has done his best to keep him away from anything related to football.
Jordi Roura (in Tito’s absence) decided to indulge us with a lovely starting XI: VV, Alves, Puyol, Mascherano, Adriano, Busquets, Xavi, Thiago, Pedro, Messi and Villa. Thiago! The return of MVP! No Cesc or Alexis to flop like fishes! And important players like Iniesta got some rest to prepare for Wednesday’s Clásico.
Osasuna did not sit back and wait for Barça to settle down. They went out and tried to take advantage of our many and varied defensive frailties, and a couple of Puyol mistakes allowed them to get much too close to VV’s box for comfort. But like everyone knows, trying to score against Barça means that you can’t defend against Barça, so it was to no one’s surprise when Messi scored within ten minutes:
Villa draws the defence and rather naive goalkeeper, Xavi does magic, and Messi calmly strolls around without a care in the world, because that’s how he is.
And what do Barça do when they have scored? Concede! That’s right, one of the conditions placed by the Football Gods before they allowed Messi to blossom into the alien he is today was that he couldn’t play with a defence that, you know, actually defended. So, Loe beat VV with a gorgeous shot after, somehow, Villa was acting as left-back (where was Adriano? We’ll never know):
So far, business as usual for Barça. Score, concede, try to score more but have shoddy aim… until the minute 27, when Arribas saw his second yellow card, both for handballs. As anyone will tell you, the handball = yellow La Liga rule is more than a little stupid, but hey, Piqué has been sent off for stupider things, so I wouldn’t cry out Villarato! quite yet. Still, Osasuna were left a man down and Barça had a PK, which Messi, of course, scored:
The sending off marked the rest of the match, I’m afraid. Osasuna couldn’t afford to keep up the high pressure on Barça’s defence with one man less, and Barça felt much more comfortable and had miles more space. They also had plenty of offsides, courtesy of Pedro, and Messi hit the goalpost with a header, so we had to wait until the first half was nearly done for the next goal:
Was Dani Alves offside? Yes. But he was also exquisitely generous, packing the goal in Roadrunner-themed wrapping paper, putting a bow on top, and setting it at Pedrito’s feet like a hipster Santa Claus. Whatever Tito said to Dani a few weeks ago, our right-back’s form has recovered to -and maybe even surpassed- his best levels. Even his crosses are accurate nowadays!
Osasuna made two changes at the half (Puñal and Masoud in for Cejudo and De Las Cuevas), and even under the circumstances, they continued to have chances, mostly thanks to Joseba Llorente, and also Barça’s generosity when it came to giving them free kicks all over the place.
But it wasn’t to be. Even out of practice, MVP can do magic, as demonstrated for the beautiful Villa assist for Messi’s third of the night:
Two minutes later, Messi decided that hat-tricks are so last season, and scored a fourth:
For those of us who’d missed Messi and Villa hugging like overenthusiastic toddlers, it was a wonderful evening!
One hour into the match, with Osasuna a man down, and Barça four goals up, Roura decided it was time for subs. Alexis came in for Pedro, to our endless frustration. First it was confusing, then it was frustrating, then it was amusing, but by now, Alexis’ inability to score defies all belief; I seriously feel terrible for the poor guy, and with every failed attempt, I feel worse. I thought that scoring once would break this vicious circle of missed chances and lack of confidence, but nope. It’s still there.
Then Roura brought Cesc in for Xavi, and Barça suddenly lost the one-man advantage over Osasuna. But the match was pretty dead by then, so much that Song was allowed to step in for Busquets, and only Villa, Thiago and Alexis were looking for a goal to improve their standing in front of Tito, unsuccessfully. The 5-1 scoreline stood, and since Atlético lost to Athletic a couple of hours later, Barça are now 11 points clear at the top of La Liga table.
(all goal videos via @Emenderk The Wizard)
VV: 8. Did well to defend the Osasuna free kicks and corner kicks. Not much he could have done for Loe’s goal. Encouragingly enough, we’ve heard reports of banners and chants supporting him all through the match.
Dani Alves: 9,5. The improvement continues!
Puyol: 7,5. He seemed a little out of it at the start of the match, but focused as the match went on.
Mascherano: 7,5. You can’t call him or Puyi out for clear mistakes, but Barça’s defence is awfully wobbly these days.
Adriano: 8. Good match, but where was he before Loe’s goal, that Villa had to take his place?
Busquets: 7,5. Quiet. Good. Some of the defensive wobbliness might be his fault, though.
Xavi: 8. Look at that lovely assist for Messi’s first!
Thiago: 8. He had a chance at goal worthy of Messi, and didn’t look out of place playing by Xavi’s side.
Villa: 9. He played a full match again! Very lively, he was directly involved in two goals, defended a lot, and had some good chances of his own.
Messi: 9. I know it sounds perfectly ridiculous, but he scored four goals and it wasn’t his best match.
Pedro: 9. He scored (thanks to Dani), he worked hard, and he even got to rest a little.
No ratings for the subs because I’d have to talk about Alexis more, and that just depresses me.
Anyway, it was a good win, Barça regained some much-needed breathing space in La Liga, and now we can focus on the mid-week match, the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals, against Real Madrid at the Bernabéu.
To start Clásico season with a good foot, Barça B beat Real Madrid Castilla 3-1 at the Mini Estadi, coming back from behind after Alex was sent off for slapping Araújo:
Some Related Barcelona Posts:
- La Liga Review: Osasuna 1, FC Barcelona 2, Or, Let Luck Suffice Where Inspiration Won’t
- La Liga Review: FC Barcelona 5, Real Sociedad 1, Or, La Liga Is Back, Villa Is Back, MVP Is Back!
- La Liga Review: FC Barcelona 5, Athletic de Bilbao 1, Or, Keeping Up With Ourselves