Barcelona will go into the first international break of the season still unbeaten after winning their third La Liga game in a row thanks to a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Osasuna at El Sadar on Sunday night. The Blaugrana never played anywhere close to their best for the entire match and can count themselves lucky to beat an Osasuna side that were better than them on the night, but Robert Lewandowski decided the game with a late penalty to give the defending champions three valuable points in Pamplona.
Barça could have scored just a minute into the game with a triple chance missed by Frenkie De Jong, Ilkay Gündogan and Robert Lewandowski inside the box, and it seemed as though the Blaugrana were looking to get off to a fast start and establish their dominance on the road.
But the Catalans couldn’t build any momentum after the early opportunities and instead settled for slow and unimaginative passing in midfield, giving Osasuna plenty of time to comfortably set up their defense, stay organized and close down spaces to avoid any real trouble.
Barça’s attack only came to life when Lamine Yamal touched the ball and ran at defenders, but the youngster had very few chances to actually get to attack his matchup and instead watched his teammates move the ball sideways without any real incisiveness in the final third.
Osasuna, on the other hand, knew exactly what to do with the ball and wasted no time in sending bodies forward and creating danger with quick passing and smart movement off the ball. They had two big chances, and Marc-André ter Stegen was forced into action to stop a deflected shot from José Arnaiz and make a massive save on what seemed like a sure-fire goal by Aimar Oroz.
It looked as though we were headed for a goalless game at the break, but Barça found the breakthrough with the last kick of the period: Gündogan sent a corner into the box and Jules Kounde jumped high in the air and scored a beautiful header to give the Blaugrana the lead in what was literally the final play before the halftime whistle.
At the interval the Catalans were not playing well but found themselves in front, but they still needed to raise their level to score more goals and confirm the victory in the second half.
Osasuna had a clear plan for the fiinal period: not concede an early goal and slowly but surely press higher and higher up the pitch to push for an equalizer. The plan worked well as the home team stayed in a low block and allowed Barça to have more of their slow and boring possession that resulted in no clear opportunites, and after the 60th minute the hosts began attacking more and sending more bodies forward.
Ferran Torres and the debuting João Cancelo came on with a half-hour to go to try and add more dynamism to the Barça attack, but the Blaugrana struggled to get a hold of the ball and constantly gave it away with poor passing in midfield. Cancelo almost marked his debut with a sensational assist to Lewandowski, but the Portuguese right-back was just offside and the potential goal was ruled out.
As we reached the final 20 minutes the game was wide open and Osasuna were the better team, and things boiled down to whether or not Barça could score a second by exploring the space in behind before the home team could find an equalizer.
Barça didn’t score the second, so the equalizer predictably arrived: Chimy Ávila received a pass just outside the box and was afforded as much time as he wanted to find the space for a shot as five Barça defenders watched, and the striker finally fired a beautifull strike that went into the net off the post and gave the hosts a much-deserved goal.
Barça had 15 minutes plus stoppage time to finally put together some meaningful offense and look for a winner, and João Félix came on for Oriol Romeu to make his debut in a move by Xavi Hernández to make the team more offensive-minded.
And it was with Félix on the pitch that Barça earned a golden chance to find the winner: Lewandowski was pulled down inside the box by Alejandro Catena, who was sent off for the denial of a clear goalscoring opportunity. Lewandowski easily scored the penalty, and Barça had the lead against 10 men going into the dying moments.
Osasuna had nothing to lose at the end and threw caution to the wind looking for a second equalizer on the night, and they had one or two very dangerous moments on set pieces. But the Barça defense did a solid job to avoid real trouble, and the front players were good in keeping the ball to run the clock out.
The final whistle came after 11 minutes of stoppage time, and Barça found a way to win despite being outplayed on the night. Lewandowski stepped up the way Barça fans hoped he would when it mattered the most, and Barça have 10 points from 12 after a difficult first month on and off the pitch.
Things could definitely be worse, and getting points on the board while developing the team cohesion is a good thing. If and when Barça finally start to play well this season, this group could be very promising.
Osasuna: Aitor; Areso (Vidal 80’), Catena, Herrando, Cruz; Ibáñez (Moncayola 72’), Muñoz; García (Barja 62’), Aimar, Arnaiz (Ávila 62’); Raúl (Budimir 62’)
Goal: Ávila (76’)
Red Card: Catena (84’)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Roberto (Cancelo 59’), Kounde, Christensen (Iñigo 90’+1), Balde; Romeu (Félix 79’), De Jong; Yamal (Ferran 59’), Gündogan, Gavi; Lewandowski (Raphinha 90+1’)
Goals: Kounde (45’+1), Lewnadowski (pen 86’)