Loss to Osasuna impacts Barcelona’s title chances

February 12th, 2012 - 5:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Cesc Fabregas Madrid, Feb 12 (IANS) The chances of FC Barcelona defending their Spanish La Liga football title took a major blow after they were stunned 2-3 by a spirited Osasuna, leaving Real Madrid the opportunity to extend their lead at the top.

The result Saturday means that Real Madrid can open up a 10-point lead at the top of the table if they are able to beat Levante in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium later in the day.

Given that Madrid have dropped just eight points all season, it would be a herculean task for Barcelona to overcome the leaders with less than half the season remaining, Xinhua reported.

Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola Saturday everyone by leaving Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta on the bench and starting B-team player Sergi Roberto, who was partnered by Javier Mascherano and Thiago Alcantara in central midfield.

Osasuna got off to a flying start and took the lead through Dejan Lekic, who took advantage of some poor defending to beat Victor Valdes with a left foot shot.

Oasuna were clearly motivated while Barca were struggling to cope with a difficult semi-frozen playing surface. It was no surprise when Osasuna doubled their lead after 22 minutes. Lekic was again the scorer, firing home a cross from the right with the Barca defence again missing the trick.

Lionel Messi had a shot saved by keeper Andres Fernandez shortly afterwards, but Barcelona were clearly not getting to grips with their rivals.

Guardiola reacted at the break bringing wingers Isaac Cuenca and Cristian Tello on for Pedro Rodriguez and Carlos Puyol and it looked as if the gamble would pay off when Alexis Sanchez scored for Barca five minutes into the second half.

However, more poor defending from Barca allowed Nino to cross for Raul Garcia to net Osasuna’s third from close range.

Tello scored his second goal in two weeks with 18 minutes remaining to give Barcelona some hope.

Patxi Punal hit the post for Osasuna, before their keeper Andres Fernandez did well to save from Messi. Alexis had a goal ruled out for offside after Sergi had just touched a Cuenca cross. Barca poured players forward, but ran out of time.

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