Full credit to Osasuna who played like they had nothing to fear against their vaunted opposition. Pep Guardiola resting Xavi, Iniesta, and Fabregas on the bench for the Bayer Leverkusen CL first leg sent in Thiago Alcantara, Pedro, and Sergi Roberto. The latter breaking into the first squad, all of four games old, completed the rejiggered midfield. Javier Mascherano as insurance for the injured Sergio Busquets recovering from a knee injury occupied the deeper role.
It was Dejan Lekic who got the ball rolling for Osasuna with two quick strikes “poonching the lungs of Barcelona.” Lekic’s first goal came from a sublime touch by Raul Garcia.
Barca’s defense was notably missing with Gerard Pique the culprit in both instances. Pep sent in young guns Isaac Cuenca and Cristian Tello after the half to get something going and in the 51st minute, El Conejo delivered from Cuenca’s cross as Barca asserted themselves. But Osasuna refused to wilt keeping up the pressure as assist man Garcia turned into goalscorer. Fabregas was sent on to salvage the situation and he turned provider for Tello’s goal to bring Barca to sniffing distance of the equalizer.
Sanchez was distinctly unlucky as he had a goal declared offside after Sergi Roberto was found to have nicked the ball as Barca ran out of answers. They are now 7 points adrift of Real which could extend to 10 points after the Merengues meet Levante. Not looking good for Barca.
Btw, something tells me Manuel Pellegrini would have been equally effective as Jose Mourinho minus the crap if he had been allowed to stay on at Real for his second season.