Barcelona's fading hopes of
capturing a fourth consecutive La Liga crown suffered a major
setback when they lost 3-2 at Osasuna on Saturday to leave Real
Madrid seven points clear at the top with a game in hand.
In freezing conditions in Pamplona, Osasuna striker Dejan
Lekic scored twice inside the first 22 minutes and Barca, who
have struggled on the road all season, waited too long to react.
Spanish World Cup winners Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc
Fabregas started on the bench, and although Alexis Sanchez
pulled one back for the visitors in the 52nd minute, Raul Garcia
quickly restored Osasuna's advantage.
Barca's youth team winger Cristian Tello grabbed a second in
the 73rd but a late charge just failed to produce the equaliser.
The world and European champions' second defeat of the
season left them on 48 points.
"The league is much tougher now, and I suppose tomorrow we
will see the gap grow even larger, " Barca coach Pep Guardiola
"If we could play well on this pitch in the second half we
should have done so in the first as well. We found it hard to
get into the game."
Atletico Madrid climbed to sixth with 31 points despite
being held to a 0-0 draw at Racing Santander.
Home goalkeeper Tono was man-of-the-match as he pulled off a
string of saves to deny Atletico, who are unbeaten in the six
games since Argentine Diego Simeone took the helm and have yet
to concede a goal in that time.
Osasuna are seventh also with 31 points, one ahead of King's
Cup finalists Athletic Bilbao, who suffered a 2-1 defeat at Real
Betis in the late game.
Nelson struck a rasping last-minute winner for Betis, who
played the last 25 minutes against 10 men after Bilbao defender
Javi Martinez, the scorer of the equaliser, was sent off for a
second bookable offence.
Osasuna's bumpy pitch and a swirling wind saw both sets of
players struggling to keep their feet at the Reyno de Navarra
stadium, but the hosts adapted quicker than Barcelona.
Serbian striker Lekic beat Victor Valdes at his near post
after only five minutes to open the scoring and the Navarrans
continued to boss the game until they doubled the lead.
A low cross from the right saw Lekic arrive unmarked again
to find the net and Barca went in at the break trailing by two
goals for the first time in the league since Guardiola took the
helm in 2008.
Barcelona turned to youngsters Tello and Isaac Cuenca at
half-time, perhaps reserving Xavi and Iniesta for the return to
Champions League action next Tuesday, and the latter provided
the cross for Alexis to score in the 51st minute.
It was only a brief respite.
A poor clearance from Valdes, one of a string of errors
among Barca's players, led to Osasuna's third, when Raul Garcia
squeezed a shot in off the post in the 55th.
Substitute Fabregas laid on the second for Tello, who cut
back inside his marker to smash the ball high into the net.
Osasuna hit the post on a counter-attack but the action was
all in their area in the closing minutes, and Fabregas had a
header saved on the line in the fourth minute of added-time.
Stoke City and manager Tony Pulis part company by mutual agreement after seven years
Andy Carroll pulls out of England's friendly internationals against Ireland and Brazil
Manchester City and the New York Yankees have formed a new Major League Soccer team
Real Madrid president under scrutiny after latest coaching project ends in disarray
Ten years on, the legends speak to FFT
Your questions answered by an A to Z of legends
He's here, he's there, he's...
The cost of Premier League away travel
Nike CR7 IX for you
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010