Saturday, December 4, 2010
Trains, Planes & Automobiles: A Messi Trip to Osasuna for Barcelona
Barcelona’s most recent great run of form almost came to a "Messi" end tonight after the Catalan club almost failed to show up against Osasuna! The La Liga champions had believed that their game had been postponed until Sunday because of the wildcat strike by Spanish Air Traffic Controllers.
However, and much to Pep Guardiola's dismay, La Blaugrana found that the game had not been re-scheduled, and they had to leave the Catalan capital by high speed train with just hours to spare before kickoff.
In a mad dash, Barcelona's first team high tailed it to Zaragoza by train. They left their home city at 14:00 with the match scheduled to kick off at 19:00. Fortunately, the game was put back to 19:45, as Lionel Messi and Co. only arrived at the Reyno De Navarra at 19:00, leaving the travel weary team just 45 minutes to limber up for a crucial encounter.
Osasuna had seemingly refused to move the game to Sunday following the strike with the Zaragoza based team, releasing a statement that said:
"Osasuna understands there is nothing that could justify the change of the day and time set for the match, according to current regulations."
Barcelona also issued a statement on their website "expressing outrage at the Spanish Football Federation because their indecision has caused great harm to the sporting interests, the image and the fans of this club".
Barca vice-president Jordi Cardoner was quoted in the Spanish media as saying: "The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) had assured us that if the air space wasn't opened the match would be postponed.
"Obviously there has been a misunderstanding..."
It would seem that the indecision by the Spanish FA to step in and move Saturday's fixtures to Sunday would have upset many teams, Barcelona included, but this only served to fire up a team who are already playing the game on another level completely.
Lionel Messi scored his 27th goal in 21 games as Barcelona served up yet another exhibition in devastatingly beautiful football.
Before tonight, Osasuna had the longest unbeaten run at home in La Liga with Barcelona only having won there once in the last five seasons. So it came as no surprise, especially with La Blaugrana's travel arrangements, to see Los Rojillos dictate the early play.
Los Rojillos should have had an early penalty when Pedro seemed to block Juan Fran in the box as the Osasuna winger was about to run free, but the referee waved play-on, much to the dismay of the baying home crowd who screamed foul.
That was to be Osasuna's missed opportunity as Lionel Messi finally got up running. The little Argentinean put a superb ball through for Pedro on 26 with the right winger staying calm under pressure to find the back of the net.
After forcing all the early play, Los Rojillos had nothing to show for it, and all of sudden, Barcelona started knocking the ball around like they were the only team on the pitch.
Messi added the goal his play deserved after David Villa sent the little maestro through. His exquisite first touch set him up perfectly as he found the back of the net with his next.
Space was opening up all over the pitch as Osasuna probed for a way back in, but like any great counter attacking boxer, Barca kept finding a way through Los Rojillos wayward attacks. David Villa really should have wrapped the game up after Messi returned the earlier favour, but the Spanish striker missed the chance to give his team breathing space as the game closed out.
With the embers of the game dying out, Lionel Messi broke into the box creating all kinds of havoc amongst the Osasuna back four with Sergio duely obliging by whipping the playmaker down for a penalty.
The little man from Santa Fe dusted himself down and duly slotted the spot kick home to leave his team with an unassailable 3-0 lead as Ricardo dove the wrong way.
This victory for Barcelona was a huge one. Osasuna are always a stubborn opponent and would be one of the last teams you would want to play against ill prepared. The fact that Barcelona travelled 195 miles by train and coach, due to the air strike, in five hours and barely had time to warm up should not be lost on anyone and this result will be seen as the dot on the exclamation point after their incredible 5-0 win over Real Madrid last weekend.
In time, Barcelona's run of results (3-1 vs. Villareal, 5-0 vs. Real Madrid and 3-0 vs. Osasuna) could be looked upon as the most important results of what promises to be an incredible season regardless of planes, trains, automobiles or referees...