BARCELONA — Barcelona are on the brink of a first LaLiga title since 2019 after Jordi Alba’s late strike earned a 1-0 win against 10-man Osasuna at Spotify Camp Nou on Tuesday.
Substitute Alba’s goal arrived in the 85th minute to finally end Osasuna’s resistance and move Barca 14 points clear of Real Madrid, who have a game in hand, with five matches to play.
Osasuna saw Jorge Herrando sent off on his LaLiga debut for a last-man challenge and they almost weathered the Barca storm despite playing for over an hour a player down.
1. Barca’s trudge to title nearly over
There has been a strange atmosphere around Barcelona since they beat Real Madrid in LaLiga just before the March international break. A Copa del Rey exit to Madrid in April and dropped points in LaLiga against Girona, Getafe and Rayo Vallecano have created the feeling that they are trudging towards a first league title in four years.
However, after following up recent wins against Atletico Madrid and Real Betis with three points against Osasuna, the finishing line is now in sight. If Madrid, who play twice before Barca next play on May 14, drop points in the upcoming games, Xavi Hernandez’s side could win the league at local rivals Espanyol.
That might not have been true if they did not beat Osasuna. And for a large part of the night, it looked like they would not take advantage of their numerical advantage after Herrando’s first-half red card.
Barca’s finishing was wasteful. When they did hit the target, they were denied by goalkeeper Aitor Fernandez. Pedri, Ansu Fati, Frenkie de Jong and Robert Lewandowski all missed really good chances, while Ronald Araujo and Jules Kounde also came close as the Blaugrana racked up an xG of 3.29.
2. Alba’s moment to remember after tough season
It took a late goal from substitute left-back Alba to finally find the breakthrough, though. A ball into the box was nudged into his path by De Jong and he squeezed the ball inside Fernandez’s near post. Camp Nou erupted. The goal felt like one which had just clinched the title.
Alba will enjoy his moment. It has been a difficult season for the veteran defender. His place has been taken in the team by 19-year-old Alejandro Balde and his minutes, for the first time in a decade-long spell at Barca, have been sparce.
Despite that, he has remained professional. Xavi has praised his importance as one of the leaders in the dressing room and, on Tuesday, he got his reward for not downing tools when previously, given his temperament during certain moments of his career, he may not have accepted this new role.
3. Osasuna’s minds elsewhere at Camp Nou
It must be said that not only did Osasuna do a sterling job with 10 men for over an hour, they also did so with a heavily rotated team. Coach Jagoba Arrasate picked a heavily rotated side due to suspension and injuries, but mainly due to the fact all eyes back in Pamplona on Saturday’s Copa del Rey final against Real Madrid.
On another day, they may have held on to a point — or even grabbed a winner. Lucas Torro dragged a shot just wide at the end of the first half and Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who recorded his 25th clean sheet of the season in LaLiga, had to be alert to keep out a rasping drive from Iker Munoz after the break.
Osasuna drop to ninth with the defeat but they will not care. They are already safe in LaLiga and if they can beat Madrid this weekend, it would represent a first ever major trophy for the club.
Best and worst performers
Aitor Fernandez, GK, Osasuna: Barca’s finishing was wayward at times but the visiting goalkeeper still had to be alert to keep out shots from Fati, De Jong and Lewandowski, among others.
Frenkie de Jong, MF, Barcelona: Missed a great chance but had ran the show from midfield in the first half and set up the late winner for Barca.
Jordi Alba, DF, Barcelona: Simply for doing what no one else could before him and putting the ball in the net.
Jorge Herrando, DF, Osasuna: A LaLiga debut to forget for the young defender, who was sent off in the 27th minute for a last-man challenge on Pedri.
Ansu Fati, FW, Barcelona: Came on for Gavi, who perhaps had a small knock, and somehow managed not to score despite having several decent chances. Also took the ball off Pedri when the midfielder was about to shoot with the score still goalless.
Aimar Oroz, MF, Barcelona: Struggled to deal with Barca’s midfield four in the first half and was taken off at the break.
Highlights and notable moments
Marc-Andrew Ter Stegen made his 250th appearance for Barcelona, the fourth most in the history of the club for his position.
A red card in the 26th minute for Osasuna spelled a long and hard evening at the Camp Nou as Herrando watched on from the stands.
Despite holding on for most of the game, Osasuna’s goal was finally breached by Alba.
After the match: What the managers, players said
Barcelona head coach Xavi Hernandez on result and LaLiga title: “It’s an important step towards the title. We suffered too much. We missed too many clear chances. Osasuna defended well but in the end we got the goal through Jordi. It almost tastes better to win like this sometimes. The team showed hunger, but the goal should have arrived earlier.
It’s almost done. It was important to get six points from these last two games after losing in Vallecas. We are taking it step by step. This is a really important step tonight.”
Barcelona’s Jordi Alba on scoring the winner: “For a full-back, I have been lucky enough to score a lot of goals. It was important to win. It was a difficult game against a team who are having a great season. I knew I could do damage coming on, given how the game was, and everything went well.
It’s been a while since we won LaLiga and for someone that came through the academy at the club (scoring the winning goal) tastes really good. There are a lot of players here that have not won anything and now they are going to get the chance to win a lot of trophies. This victory is also for the fans, who are always with us.”
Osasuna goalkeeper Aitor Fernandez on the result and Copa del Rey final against Real Madrid: “Coming here is complicated but we played really well. It’s really tiring physically playing for so long with 10 men. But Osasuna fans can be proud of the performance and now all thoughts are on Saturday. We are really looking forward to the Copa final.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
Barcelona: 11th LaLiga win by 1-0 scoreline this season, ties LaLiga all-time record shared by 2020-21 Sevilla, 2017-18 Atlético Madrid and 1988-89 Valencia.
Jordi Alba: 1st LaLiga goal as a substitute for Barcelona. Last scored as a substitute for Valencia in 2010-11.
Barcelona: 11 goals conceded in LaLiga this season, fewest in Europe’s top 5 leagues (next-lowest tally is 22 by Napoli); the 11 goals conceded are the fewest by any LaLiga team through 33 matchdays in LaLiga history
Barcelona: As they close in on the LaLiga title, Barca play Espanyol on Sunday, May 14 (stream live on ESPN+ at 3:00 p.m. ET).
Osasuna: Los Rojillos play Real Madrid in their second-ever Copa del Rey final on Saturday, May 6 (stream live on ESPN+ at 4 p.m. ET).
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