MADRID – Barcelona cranked up the pressure on Sunday’s Madrid derby by beating Osasuna 2-0 on Saturday night (March 6) to edge two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid in La Liga.
Lionel Messi set up both goals in Pamplona as Jordi Alba hammered home in the first half before the 18-year-old Ilaix Moriba came off the bench to curl in an impressive shot late in the second.
Ilaix’s strike was his first goal in La Liga and another breakthrough moment for a Barca youngster, 24 hours before the club hopes a brighter future can begin under a new president.
Before the winner of the elections is confirmed on Sunday night, Atletico will face Real Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano, where Barcelona will surely be hoping for anything other than a home win.
A few weeks ago, Ronald Koeman’s side looked too far adrift in the title race but 10 victories out of 11 have shot them back into contention, even if Atletico remain in the driving seat with two games in hand.
After coming from two goals down to beat Sevilla after extra-time in the semi-final of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, Barcelona now have one trophy, and perhaps even a domestic double, in their sights.
Osasuna pressed high, which made for an entertaining opening 20 minutes as both sides played through the pressure and poured forward on the break.
Barca faced some nervy moments as Jonathan Calleri tried an ambitious lob from distance before Ruben Garcia’s curler from the edge of the area required an athletic save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Messi shot wide and then set up the opener, drifting in from the right and spotting the scuttling Alba racing in behind on the opposite side. Messi clipped a superb pass through three Osasuna defenders for Alba to collect and he lashed it high into the net from the angle.
Garcia deserved an equaliser soon after for his first touch alone, a sumptuous cushioning of a long ball forward, but Ter Stegen was again there to deny the finish.
There was more control about the second half but Barcelona needed a second to make it comfortable and substitute Ilaix seized his moment, shaping to shoot with his right before coolly rolling onto his left on the edge of the area and whipping into the corner.