Barça warmed up for next week’s Bernabéu Clásico with a 7-0 demolition of Osasuna at Camp Nou tonight. Leo Messi put Barça ahead in the 18th minute, equalling the legendary Paulino Alcántara’s club record of 369 goals in all games including friendlies. Alexis Sanchez added a second soon after, and Andrés Iniesta capped a splendid performance with a glorious drive to put Barça 3-0 up before half time. Messi cruised past Alcántara’s total with his second of the game just past the hour and then late goals from Cristian Tello, Messi again and Pedro completed the rout.
Osasuna had conceded a total of 17 goals in their last three visits to Camp Nou but this afternoon they began positively. In the first fifteen minutes Barça were reduced to one angled volley over from Alexis while the visitors managed a couple of dangerous moments with Oriol Riera having a goal ruled out for offside and Cejudo volleying wide from a corner.
However, Barça soon began to pick up the pace with Xavi and Busquets moving the ball on quickly and Iniesta always finding a way to keep possession. Martino picked Alexis and Pedro to play wide in attack and the pair reacted positively. In the 18th minute Pedro made a dash up the left before pulling the ball back to Xavi who picked his moment to switch play to the right wing, Alexis whipped in a low cross to the near post and Messi got ahead of Loties to poke the ball inside the far post.
The goal led to a superb 25-minute spell with Barça parked firmly in the Osasuna half. Iniesta and Messi showed their first brilliant combination but Alexis fired over but the second goal came soon after. Messi, Busquets and Iniesta moved the ball quickly from right to left to Jordi Alba who knocked the ball back inside for Iniesta and spurted into the area for Iniesta’s return before sending a low cross in for Alexis who got in front of Damià to prod the ball home.
Iniesta’s genius is sometimes undermined for his lack of goals but he scored an absolute corker to put Barça further ahead. Busquets again moved the ball on quickly, finding Iniesta in space, and after a couple of strides forward Don Andrés let fly with a left-foot bullet that flew past Andrés Fernandez from outside the area. It was an tremendous strike from Iniesta, from the moment he hit the ball it continued rising, but it was still only four feet off the ground as it whistled inside the far post and into the net. INIESTAZO!
Barça could have added more before half-time. Fernandez had to tip over a long-distance drive from Alves, then the keeper needed to make a better save to block Xavi’s volley after another delightful pass from Iniesta. Then another wonderful combination starting with an Alexis back-heel and involving quick touches from Iniesta, Messi and Alves ended with Pedro shooting wide.
Pedro was also responsible for the first shot of the second half, though after spinning skilfully on the edge of the area and making a stylish step-over he fired narrowly wide of the near post. Pedro then played in Alba for the overlap but when the cross came in Iniesta stabbed his shot too close to Fernández.
The rhythm was dropping a little and with the points more or less assured Martino brought on Song in place of Xavi in the 61st minute. Interestingly, it should be noted that unlike in San Sebastian, Busquets continued as defensive midfield pivot while Song occupied Xavi’s position.
A couple of minutes after the substitution Messi and Iniesta teamed up again to marvellous effect. Iniesta was wide on the left and he played the ball into the penalty area to Messi who skipped past Francisco Silva before playing a quick one-two with Iniesta, then holding off Loties’ challenge on the corner of the goal area the Argentinian took Alcántara’s record with in an angled shot high past Fernández.
Barça kept searching for more. One quick-thinking clearance from Valdés gave Pedro the chance to take advantage of Oier’s slip and send in a fantastic pass for Messi who sent his shot disappointingly over. Messi’s next effort was better after Song and Alves worked the ball through but Fernandez got down well to save.
It was somewhat surprising that Martino didn’t decide to give Neymar some minutes as a substitute as perhaps in such a one-sided game the Brazilian could have regained some confidence. Instead Barça’s coach called for Cristian Tello with just 13 minutes remaining and the young winger came on and smashed in a first-class goal within a minute, after cutting back past two opponents and belting a 25-yarder just inside the far post.
Barça hadn’t finished. In the 84th minute Iniesta sent yet another inch-perfect pass for Alves who made an excellent control before finding Messi who coolly slotted the ball in the corner for his hat-trick. Then as the game entered injury time Alves showed his stamina for another run up the right, the ball came inside to Messi who dribbled into the area before slipping the ball in for Pedro who deserved to grab the final goal.
Whatever the ups and downs of recent weeks, today’s showing was extremely encouraging. There were good performances all round though Iniesta and Messi were particularly outstanding. Messi demonstrated he is just as capable of mind-blowing football as he ever was, and it is an astonishing feat to break the last important club scoring record at the tender age of 26. However, for me, today’s man-of-the-match must go to the magisterial Iniesta. If he’d scored from the half-chance early in the second half I would have given him a ten-out-of-ten but besides that he was practically flawless.
It’s obviously positive to play so well going into next week’s clash with Madrid and we can allow ourselves some optimism again as far as La Liga is concerned. We know, of course, that there is a massive gulf between playing Osasuna at home and facing Madrid at the Bernabéu but if we can get into our game next Sunday we may well pull it off.
Barça: Valdés 7; Alves 7.5, Bartra 6.5, Mascherano 7 (Adriano m82, –), Alba 7; Xavi 7.5 (Song m61, 6.5), Busquets 7.5, Iniesta 9.5; Alexis 8 (Tello m77, 7), Messi 9, Pedro 7.5.
Osasuna: Andrés Fernandez; Oier, Lotiès, Damiá; Lolo, Silva; Cejudo, Roberto Torres (Puñal m70), Armenteros (Lobato m61); Oriol Riera (Acuña m84).
Goals: m18 Messi 1-0, m22 Alexis 2-0, m34 Iniesta 3-0, m63 Messi 4-0, m78 Tello 5-0, m84 Messi 6-0, m91 Pedro 7-0.
Yellow cards: m48 Arribas, m58 Mascherano, m81 Cejudo.