Mon, Dec 06, 2010 - Page 19 News List

Messi lifts tardy Barca to victory

PEP PIQUED:Barca’s coach said the air traffic controllers’ strike in Spain led to confusion with the league about if the match against Osasuna would be postponed or not

Reuters, MADRID

Real Madrid’s Brazilian defender Marcelo, right, heads the ball as he vies with Valencia’s midfielder Joaquin Sanchez on Saturday during the -Spanish league soccer match Real Madrid vs Valencia at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid.

Photo: AFP

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola was furious with the Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) for the confusion that led to his team making a late dash by train and bus to play a La Liga match at Osasuna on Saturday.

The Spanish champions made the 350km journey after a strike by Spanish air traffic controllers dashed their plans to fly direct to Pamplona on the morning of the game.

Barca put out a statement early in the afternoon to say they had an agreement to postpone the match to yesterday, but this was soon contradicted by the RFEF and Osasuna, who insisted the match go ahead as scheduled.

Barca arrived at the Reyno de Navarra just before the start time of 7pm, and after a 50-minute delay they went on to win 3-0 with two goals from Lionel Messi to stay top of the standings.

“The federation told us that if the plane didn’t leave, the game would be postponed,” Guardiola told reporters after the match.

“We never travel the same day by coach. To play against Osasuna who had not lost at home in 12 matches we wanted to be at our best,” he said. “We don’t mind traveling, last year we went 14 hours by coach to play in the Champions League [a semi-final first leg against Inter because of a volcanic ash cloud], because UEFA said they wouldn’t postpone.”

“Now we know how this country works and when the federation is put under pressure, we have traveled because we preferred to come than to lose three points,” he said.

Barcelona shrugged off the last-minute dash by train and bus to Pamplona to defeat Osasuna 3-0 on Saturday, maintaining their two-point lead at the top of La Liga after Real Madrid beat Valencia 2-0 at the Bernabeu.

Despite limited preparation time, Lionel Messi scored twice and Pedro once as the champions made it seven wins from seven on the road this season.

Real Madrid recovered from their 5-0 Clasico drubbing at Camp Nou to beat Valencia, though it needed the 65th-minute sending off of Valencia midfielder David Albelda to give them the edge.

Cristiano Ronaldo settled their nerves with a goal after 73 minutes and then streaked away to notch his 16th in La Liga this season with three minutes remaining.

Barca have 37 points from 14 matches, Real have 35 and Valencia stay fifth with 24.

ATLETICO BEATEN

Atletico Madrid slumped to a 2-0 defeat at promoted Levante, making it three defeats in a week for the misfiring Europa League holders.

Defender Nano headed Levante in front from a corner after three minutes and Ecuador striker Felipe Caicedo sealed the win with a wonderful finish in the 59th.

Atletico, who lost 3-2 at home to Espanyol and Aris Salonika over the past week, stayed seventh with 20 points.

A pumped-up Osasuna made life difficult for Barca and they pressured the visitors all over the pitch in the early exchanges.

A wayward pass from Victor Valdes almost gifted the hosts a goal, but Fernando Soriano’s attempted lob went straight back to the keeper.

The breakthrough goal came when Messi slipped a ball through for Pedro in the 26th minute and Barca never looked back.

David Villa released Messi on a breakaway in the 65th and the World Player of the Year scampered away to make it 2-0.

The Argentine was then bundled over for a penalty in the 83rd and Messi picked himself up to score, taking his tally for the season to 15 league goals from 14 matches.

LACKED SELF-ESTEEM

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