I’m sure I wasn’t the only one surprised that Barcelona drew against Osasuna this weekend as the fight for the Spanish top flight title continued to prove as close as ever. With Real Madrid having beaten a poor Getafe side with just 10 men earlier in the day Barca knew that victory in Pamplona (which seemed a pretty straight-forward result) would return them to being three points above their arch-rivals. Instead of achieving that Barca were forced to settle for a solitary point and are only one point ahead at the top. After the match Barca midfielder Andres Iniesta claimed the match had left a “bittersweet taste” for Barcelona. Of all the adjectives I could use for this match from a Barcelona point of view, bittersweet is not one of them.
Iniesta is referring to the fact that Barcelona dominated the game and should have won it but, if anything, that would leave a bitter taste for Barcelona rather than bittersweet given how frustrating it is not win a game that you deserve to win. As a fan I would be far more accepting of my team dropping points in a game where we’ve been matched by an opponent than simply to have been unable to take our chances, and that is exactly what happened to Barcelona this weekend. Zlatan Ibrahimovic seemed devoid of ideas and his finishing was poor and his shots surprisingly weak and Lionel Messi had plenty of chances but, for once, was unable to take any of them with former Manchester United goalkeeper Ricardo equal to all of his efforts. And it wasn’t as if Osasuna were a defensive wall there to be pushed constantly, they tried to really play against Barca and thus were there for the taking. Thankfully for them, Barca couldn’t make it happen.
Admittedly, Barcelona were extremely unlucky in a couple of situations that arose in the game. Osasuna should definitely have been reduced to ten men just after the hour mark as centre back Miguel Flano, playing as the last man, dallied on the ball, was robbed by Ibrahimovic and sent the Swedish striker flying with the knowledge that Ibra was clear through. Remarkably the referee did not produce a card, simply awarding a free kick. Flano was the last man and really should have gone. Cue Catalonian discontent. Osasuna’s last gasp equaliser was also unlucky for Barcelona; Rafael Marquez was caught in possession by Osasuna winger Javier Camunas whose cross was wildly swung at by Gerard Pique who struggled to reach it. Pique’s touch lifted the ball up where it hit ‘keeper Victor Valdes in the face and bounced into the net. Not only was it an obscenely unlucky own goal but there was also controversy in the build-up with both Sergio Busquets and Xavi adamant that both Busquets and Marquez had been fouled during the build-up.
This one move showed a frailty that Barcelona possess; the squad depth of their defence is not as good as it could be. Dmytro Chygrynskiy continued to fail to impress since his move from Shakhtar this summer and his yellow card led to Pep Guardiola replacing the Ukrainian with Marquez. Marquez himself has not recently looked the player he used to be and was very sloppy in giving the ball away. With both defenders looking like liabilities, Barca will have to hope that their first choice defence is always available as they cannot afford mistakes like these with Real Madrid breathing down their necks.
By labelling the draw “bittersweet” Iniesta has played down the importance of the result to Barcelona and has attempted to lighten the mood as a last minute equaliser is obviously very demoralising. I think he’s made a mistake here as Barcelona would’ve no doubt gone into their next game eager to make amends for this poor result and would work harder to ensure that such mistakes wouldn’t happen again. Iniesta’s quote is more likely to make the squad think that errors like these and the result can be ignored as long as the team plays well and dominates. A mentality like that cannot be allowed to occur given how tough the title race in Spain is this year. Thanks for the spurring on Andres…