Osasuna beat Barcelona in La Liga five goals thriller

Posted on by SoccerPunter

Barcelona‘s titles hopes were left hanging in the balance on Saturday as they crashed 3-2 away to Osasuna leaving Real Madrid the chance to open up a 10-point gap if they beat Levante on Sunday.

The reigning La Liga and Champions League winners have struggled on their travels this season with just four wins and succumbed to their third defeat in freezing conditions in Pamplona.

A double from Dejan Lekic put Osasuna in a commanding position before the break and while Alexis Sanchez reduced the arrears after 50 minutes, a clinical finish from Raul Garcia restored the two-goal cushion.

Substitute Cristian Tello hit Barca’s second and there were chances at either end in the final stages but Osasuna held on. While Barca struggle, Real continue to roll over their opposition, having won 18 of 21 games, scoring 71 goals in the process, eight more than the champions.

Barca coach Pep Guardiola continued to put his faith in youth against Osasuna and left Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas on the bench with possibly their midweek Champions League match with Bayer Leverkusen in mind.

Sergio Busquets was also absent through injury, and the Catalan side lacked their normal fluidity on a bumpy pitch.

A double from Lekic put Osasuna in a commanding position before the break with only a shot from distance by Lionel Messi, tipped over by the keeper Andres Fernandez, offered in response.

Barca started the second half strongly and after five minutes substitute Juan Cuenca crossed for Alexis Sanchez to reduce the arrears.

But just as the visitors appeared to be turning the game around, Raul Garcia restored the two-goal cushion with a clinical finish off the post.

Barca had more of the ball and another substitute, Tello, fired in their second which beat the keeper at his near post.

In the final stages, Francisco Punal hit the post for the home side while Sanchez had a goal ruled out for offside.

Despite Barcelona’s problems, Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho feels that the title contest will not be decided imminently.

“February is possibly more difficult for us than Barcelona as we take on Levante, Racing (Santander) who are improving, Rayo (Vallecano), without doubt the surprise package this season, and then Espanyol who are fighting for a place in Europe,” he said.

“Levante are good side and not just for the fact they have beaten Barcelona but also for where they are in the table. In October and November everyone thought they would run out of steam.”

Earlier, a series of spurned chances saw Atletico Madrid draw 0-0 at struggling Racing Santander but the revival under Diego Simeone continued as they push for a place in Europe.

Atletico are now in sixth place while they are unbeaten in six games and yet to concede a goal under the new Argentine coach although this was their second consecutive goalless stalemate.

Athletic Bilbao can still climb above them and into fourth if they can beat Real Betis later Saturday.

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