Veteran Alba saves Barcelona just before time, 27th country title close at hand

Veteran Alba saves Barcelona just before time, 27th country title close at hand
Jordi Alba (right) celebrates his hit with Ansu Fati

NOS Football

FC Barcelona is painfully one step closer to its first Spanish national title since 2019. They narrowly won 1-0 at home against Osasuna, despite Barcelona playing an hour with one man more, thanks to a goal from substitute Jordi Alba. The difference between Barcelona and pursuer Real Madrid is now 14 points with five games to go, although Real has played one less game. They play the tricky away game tonight at number four Real Sociedad.

At Barcelona, Frenkie de Jong was in the starting lineup. Center-minder Osasuna started with nine different players compared to the last league game, probably to spare players for Saturday’s cup final against Real Madrid. It is only the second cup final ever for the club from Pamplona, which lost the final to Real Betis in 2005.

Red card rookie

The match got off to a slow start, with the first chance of the match for Barcelona midfielder Pedri after 25 minutes after good work by Alejandro Balde. A little later, De Jong fed a through ball to Pedri, who was pulled to the ground by Osasuna defender Jorge Herrando in a promising position. The 22-year-old Herrando, who was making his league debut for Osasuna, was shown red by the referee.

It only increased Barça’s dominance against the No. 9 Spanish league side. However, the Catalans did suffer a setback: Gavi dropped out injured and had to be replaced for Ansu Fati ten minutes before halftime. The same Fati had the first chance of the second half, but his effort was saved.

Gavi (center) dribbles but later has to come off injured

So it remained 0-0 at Camp Nou for a long time, although De Jong should have changed that in the 56th minute. He had a chance not to be missed, but shot the ball from a few yards against goalkeeper Aitor Fernandez after a nice pass from Pedri. Five minutes later, substitute Ousmane Dembélé should have scored, but from close range the Frenchman shot hastily wide.

Fifteen minutes before time, Barcelona almost grabbed the lead with a lucky shot. The outgoing Fernandez was just a little quicker to the ball than the invisible goal-scoring machine Robert Lewandowski, but shot the ball against the just-fallen Ferran Torres. The ball went just wide. Moments later Lewandowski finally seemed to break the spell, but in an earlier stage of the attack Torres was offside, so the goal was disallowed.

Lewandowski (left) and Dembélé were unfortunate in finishing against Osasuna

The crowd got more desperate and desperate, but five minutes before time Barcelona still managed to score. De Jong headed a cross through to yet another substitute, veteran Jordi Alba. Alba shot the ball in one go with an outside foot and a lot of effect on goal, and the ball went in via goalkeeper Fernandez, to the relief of the crowd.

Immediately, the crowd sang the song “Campione, Campione” en masse, referring to the Catalans’ likely upcoming 27th championship. Barcelona ran out of trouble after the goal and dragged the 1-0 across the line.

Kayleigh Williams