Barcelona will begin the World Cup as La Liga leaders after opening up a five point gap to Real Madrid with victory over Osasuna. They did not do it the easy way though.
After going a goal down six minutes in, Barcelona then had Robert Lewandowski sent off after barely half an hour. Gerard Pique was on the bench but also managed to receive a red card for his complaints.
However a different Barcelona came out in the second half and showed plenty of nous to grind out a 2-1 win, in spite of the adversity.
It was something that greatly excited manager Xavi Hernandez. Diario AS streamed his press conference.
“Yes, very proud of the family that we have in there [the dressing room]. Everything went against us. Refereeing decisions, the goal at the corner. We defended as a group, we showed solidarity in the second half and in the end we got a golden victory. We are leading at the break and it is a victory of pride.”
“It was a spectacular victory in every sense. We told them during the break to have faith, personality and intelligence. We controlled the game well and defended well, we hardly conceded any clear chances until the end despite playing an hour with one man less and we knew how to take advantage of our moments. Good in opposition territory, with help in defence, a victory of faith, courage, family… very important.”
He also praised his side’s ability to manage the game, something that has been lacking in recent years at Barcelona.
“We were intelligent, we were a block being effective with the two chances that we had, being solid. Both today and in the last home game is we were more mature. It is a tremendous victory, a golden victory with a very good feeling of unity. We’re going into the break as leaders, we’ll see what Madrid does.”
Following the match, Barcelona’s players enjoyed themselves in the celebrations. It was a win that will forge team spirit for Xavi.
“I think the team is growing, we are a family, the dressing room is spectacular, people really want to win and we are leading going into the World Cup break, which was our goal.”
The Blaugrana can now enjoy their holidays, or in some cases the World Cup, in the knowledge that although their season has not gone to plan, they are well in contention for the title. With no games for six weeks, that atmosphere will remain, whereas a defeat might have further placed mental strain on an already fragile side