x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

More magic from Messi

A stunning 84th-minute strike from Lionel Messi gave Barcelona three points as the Catalans scored two late goals to beat bottom club Osasuna.

Lionel Messi, in yellow, attempts to dribble through the Osasuna defence.
Lionel Messi, in yellow, attempts to dribble through the Osasuna defence.

A stunning 84th-minute strike from Lionel Messi gave Barcelona three points as the Catalans scored two late goals to beat bottom club Osasuna 3-2 on Sunday. Barca retain their 12-point lead over second-placed Real Madrid at the top of the Primera Liga, but they received a shock in the cold mist of Pamplona which justified coach Pep Guardiola's continued warnings about over confidence.

"We learned a lesson," said Guardiola. "Because today showed that we are the champions of nothing." Barca took the lead through Samuel Eto'o just before the break when Messi set the Cameroonian up for his 16th goal of the season. Backed a vocal 20,000 crowd, Osasuna were rejuvenated in the second half. Miguel Flano's looping headed from a corner beat Victor Valdes for a deserved equaliser in the 62nd minute. And when veteran striker Walter Pandiani put Osasuna 2-1 up 10 minutes later - prompting scenes of unbridled celebration - Barca faced a first league defeat since the opening day of the season.

Champions show their character in the face of adversity and Guardiola will have been encouraged by his players' response. With 10 minutes left, Xavi, making his 300th Barca league appearance, scored his 30th league goal for the club after bravely meeting a Daniel Alves cross. Messi had started that move, but the best player in the world on current form - who scored a stunning midweek hat-trick in the cup against Atletico Madrid - saved his finest moment until six minutes from time. With five opponents surrounding him, the Argentinian somehow found the space to bury a shot into the corner of the goal.

"We've become accustomed to having a bitter taste in our mouths," lamented Osasuna coach Jose Antonio Camacho. Barca's eighth consecutive away league win breaks the seven game Spanish record held by Real since 1961. Juande Ramos' side had a 3-0 victory at struggling Mallorca thanks to goals from in-form winger Arjen Robben, Raul, making his 500th Real appearance, and Sergio Ramos. Robben has been Real's star recently, but Ramos said: "A team doesn't rely on one player. It's his job to attack and he is given the freedom to do so by the other players."

A snowball fight held up Atletico's game against Athletic Bilbao, before the Madrilenos let a one goal lead slip and had Maniche sent off as they lost 3-2. @Email:apassela@thenational.ae