Despite havingsent off in the opening period, Barcelona rallied from a goal down to defeat Osasuna 2-1. Lewandowski absent? No issue. In one of Spain’s toughest away games, Raphinha and Pedri rose to the occasion as Barca, a team that is frequently criticized for having a soft underbelly, improved their chances of winning the title.
The Catalans got off to the worst possible start, losing after only six minutes, and had their hero Pole dismissed for a flying challenge on Garcia after only 31 minutes. It appeared to be a long night for the Blaugrana after substitute Gerard Pique—playing in his final-ever match—saw red at halftime for his comments to the referees.
But after the break, they immediately resumed. Soon after the second half began, Pedri scored to tie the score. Raphinha, a replacement, then scored the game-winning header in the 85th minute. With first place now secured, Barca will enter the World Cup break with genuine optimism that Xavi’s team can win the championship back at Camp Nou this year.
The Performing Side:
Pedri: At El Sadar, Barcelona was about to suffer a costly loss when Pedri came up with an important equalizer after 48 minutes. The kid scored for the third time in La Liga this season with a low drive that outlasted two of his defenders and goalkeeper Aitor Fernandez. The goal gave Barca confidence to start the second half and set up the 10 men to win with confidence and all three points.
Raphinha: Just minutes after the Brazil international came off the bench, Raphinha scored the game-winning goal for Barcelona with his head. The forward’s brilliant improvisation meant that Barca earned all three points. Raphinha has recently struggled for goals at Barca, sliding out of the starting XI, but this goal and the outcome should make all the difference in the world for him.
Barca’s title hopes: Real Madrid’s unexpected loss against Rayo Vallecano allowed Barca to take advantage and increase their lead at the top to five points. Los Blancos can close the deficit on Thursday when they play Cadiz, but Barca is confident that no matter what happens at the Santiago Bernabeu, they will be in first place going into the World Cup. Although Xavi’s team has had a difficult season thus far, especially following an early relegation from the Champions League, this result gives them a significant boost in their chances of winning La Liga.
The Losing Side:
Robert Lewandowski: After receiving his marching orders at the halfway point of the game, Barcelona’s leading scorer had a night to forget. After 11 minutes, the Polish international received a yellow card for a weak challenge on Nacho Vidal and then was sent off for purposefully and needlessly colliding with David Garcia. Lewandowski had a ridiculous moment that might have cost Barça, especially since they were already down one. The striker will now play in Barca’s first match back following the World Cup, a minor local rivalry matchup against Espanyol.
Sergio Busquets: The Barcelona captain made a terrible start to the game, giving the visitors a mountain to climb against a determined and talented opponent after they fell by a goal. Busquets failed to effectively mark David Garcia from the corner kick that led to Osasuna’s goal, and as a result, the midfielder was able to score. The midfielder was also guilty of giving the ball away in risky situations, which gave Chimy Avila another opportunity, and of being too easily intimidated off the ball. Last time around, Barcelona said farewell to Gerard Pique, and based on this data, Busquets shouldn’t be long behind.
Gerard Pique: Pique received an emotional send-off on his final appearance at Camp Nou last time, but his final game for the Catalan giants ended in humiliation at Osasuna. The defender started the game on the bench but was ultimately dismissed at halftime, eliminating any prospect of a farewell appearance. After witnessing his team fall behind 1-0 and losing Lewandowski to a red card, Pique was visibly enraged and stepped onto the field to argue with the referees. The complaints were completely ineffective because Pique also received a red on his final career outing. To make matters worse, Xavi admitted following the game that he would have entered the game had he been available.
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