Barcelona stay top despite matchday scramble

Barcelona shrugged off a five-hour train and coach journey to clinch a 3-0 win at Osasuna on Saturday, maintaining their perfect away record in the 2010/11 Spanish first division.

Lionel Messi struck twice to give Barcelona a comfortable win at Osasuna tonight after the Catalans had raced against the clock to arrive in Pamplona in time for the Primera Division fixture. Pedro gave his team the lead in the first half and Messi added his second-half brace to see Barcelona stay top of the league and ensure a happy ending to what had been a stressful day for the Catalan club.

Under Pep Guardiola Barcelona travel to away games on the day of the match, but the Catalans saw their plans thrown into disarray by an unexpected air controller's strike. The defending Spanish champions claimed in a statement on their website that they were originally given permission to play the match tomorrow evening by the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF).


We found it difficult to get into the game because it had been a hard day but we got the three points at a difficult ground.
Sergio Busquets, Barcelona midfielder


However, with Osasuna reportedly unwilling to change the fixture, the Catalan club were later told by the RFEF that the game would go ahead as originally scheduled, forcing them to make hasty road and rail arrangements for the journey to Pamplona. The squad left Barcelona at 4pm local time, catching the high-speed AVE train to Zaragoza and completing the rest of the trip by coach. That saw the Catalan party arrive at the Reyno de Navarra stadium only shortly before the scheduled kick-off time, which was then put back by 45 minutes.

"We found it difficult to get into the game because it had been a hard day but we got the three points at a difficult ground," said Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets.

When the match eventually started, Osasuna came out flying in freezing cold conditions and Jose Antonio Camacho's men won two corners in the first two minutes. Coach Pep Guardiola fielded the same starting XI that crushed Real Madrid on Monday and the visitors almost scored in the fifth minute with David Villa inches away from latching onto Pedro's low centre. With 25 minutes gone the goal arrived with Messi feeding a pin-point pass to Pedro who arrived on cue to dispatch a fine finish into the corner.

Three minutes later Messi was wreaking havoc again, crashing a shot off the post and then forcing a low save as Barcelona turned the screw. Osasuna were forced to do a lot of ball watching with their only chance in the first half coming from a poor kick from Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes, but Fernando Soriano could only shoot weakly.

Barcelona were not as slick in the second half but got the second goal they wanted on 64 minutes when Villa fed Messi who sprinted away from his marker before sliding in a neat finish. Eight minutes from time Messi was fouled in the penalty area and the Argentine picked himself up to convert the spot-kick for his 15th goal of the season to top the scoring charts.