Madrid, Oct 20: FC Barcelona’s 100 percent start to the season came to an end Saturday night as they were held to a 0-0 draw in Navarre’s capital city of Pamplona in Spain by a hard-working Osasuna.
Although Barcelona controlled the majority of the play, they struggled to break down a committed and tenacious rivals, who allowed few spaces in attack and limited Barca to just a handful of chances, Xinhua reported.
The draw means that Barca are now just three points ahead of Real Madrid a week before the two sides meet in the Camp Nou Stadium and also means their attempt to equal Madrid’s record start to the season of nine consecutive wins has failed at the last hurdle.
Despite the importance of the game, Barca coach, Tata Martino made sweeping changes to his side, resting players such as Gerard Pique and Dani Alves and bringing Carles Puyol back into the side after his injury problems along with Martin Montoya.
Meanwhile Leo Messi began the game on the bench as a precaution as he recovers from a muscle strain.
The first 45 minutes were hard work for both sides on a dry pitch in the El Sadar Stadium and Osasuna showed why they are improving under coach Javi Gracia.
The home side looked compact and denied Barca spaces in their own half, closing down players such as Neymar, who once again came in for some rough treatment from opposing defenders, Pedro and Andres Iniesta.
Chances were few and far between with Montoya finding space, but lacking the final pass, while the best opportunity was a Marc Bartra header from a corner which flew over the Osasuna crossbar and both keepers spent more time clearing the ball with their feet than making saves.
The second half saw few changes to the game plan, although Barca gained more control as time progressed and began to carve out opportunities.
Neymar was inches away from a fine Montoya cross 10 minutes after break after Barca’s best move of the game, but the best opportunities fell to Cesc Fabrigas, who was uninspired in font of goal, failing to lob the ball over Osasuna keeper Andres Fernandez and then shooting over the bar when being put through by Xavi Hernandez.
Messi came into the game with 20 minutes remaining, but looked slightly off his best and surrounded by a crowd of defenders every time he got the ball for once he was unable to work his magic.