x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Barca fail to find net in draw with Osasuna

With Lionel Messi on the bench, Barcelona missed an opportunity to match the best start ever to a La Liga campaign.

Cesc Fabregas, right, reacts after missing a shot during Saturday's scoreless draw with Osasuna. Alvaro Barrientos / AP
Cesc Fabregas, right, reacts after missing a shot during Saturday's scoreless draw with Osasuna. Alvaro Barrientos / AP

Barcelona missed the chance to equal the best ever start to a Spanish league season as they dropped their first points of the campaign in a 0-0 draw at Osasuna.

With Lionel Messi starting on the bench, the visitors failed to make the most of their dominance in the first-half with Marc Bartra’s wayward header their only serious effort on goal.

Neymar and Cesc Fabregas then passed up great chances to put Barca in front at the beginning of the second period before Messi was finally introduced for the final quarter.

However, even the Argentine couldn’t open the door as Osasuna stood firm to prevent Barca scoring in the league for the first time since January 2012.

“With the performance of the team and the chances we had, normally it would be enough for Barcelona to win but today it wasn’t to be,” lamented Barca coach Gerardo Martino.

“I am very calm with the performance of the team, especially because Osasuna is a team that can cause damage in their stadium and we didn’t suffer at all defensively.”

Martino had decided to hand a surprise start to captain Carles Puyol after seven months out due to knee surgery, but left Messi on the bench as he returned from a thigh strain.

“Obviously, we were trying to win the game when Leo came on, but independent of the result, whether Barcelona were winning or losing, we always saw Leo playing 20-25 minutes,” said the coach.

Barca’s best chance in the first half came from a set-piece when Bartra headed over when completely unmarked from Xavi’s corner in stoppage time.

Neymar was inches away from finding the breakthrough nine minutes after the break but he just couldn’t reach Martin Montoya’s low cross on the stretch.

Fabregas then blasted over after being played in perfectly by Xavi.

With the chances beginning to arrive, Martino summoned Messi from the bench 22 minutes from time in place of Xavi.

The Argentine fired a warning shot wide with his first opening 12 minutes from the end, but Barca failed to create another clear sight of goal and had to settle for a draw.

A point was enough though to move Martino’s men to the top of the table as Atletico Madrid also lost their 100 percent record with a 1-0 defeat at Espanyol.

Thibaut Courtois’ own goal 10 minutes after the break handed Javier Aguirre’s side the three points against his old club to leave Atletico a point adrift of Barca in second place.