Mon, Feb 13, 2012 - Page 19 News List

Barca at Real’s mercy: Guardiola

AFP, MADRID

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola admitted his side’s sinking hopes of hanging onto their La Liga crown were at the mercy of bitter rivals Real Madrid following Saturday’s shock 3-2 defeat at Osasuna.

“Win the title? Well, we will try to defend our Champions League crown and then attempt to negotiate each match in La Liga,” Guardiola said on a freezing night in Pamplona. “We will see what happens, but we are a significant distance behind. The league will be more difficult for us now.”

“In the second half tonight, we did well on this pitch, but we should have done better in the first half. It was hard for us to get into this game, but we have to congratulate Osasuna,” he added.

A double from Dejan Lekic put Osasuna in a commanding position before the break and while Alexis Sanchez reduced the arrears after 50 minutes, a clinical finish from Raul Garcia restored the two-goal cushion.

Substitute Cristian Tello hit Barca’s second and there were chances at either end in the final stages but Osasuna held on.

Guardiola continued to put his faith in youth against Osasuna and left Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas on the bench with possibly their midweek Champions League match with Bayer Leverkusen in mind.

Sergio Busquets was also absent through injury and the Catalan side lacked their normal fluidity on a bumpy pitch.

A double from Lekic put Osasuna in a commanding position before the break with only a shot from distance by Lionel Messi, tipped over by the keeper Andres Fernandez, offered in response.

Barca started the second half strongly and after five minutes, substitute Juan Cuenca crossed for Alexis Sanchez to reduce the arrears.

However, just as the visitors appeared to be turning the game around, Raul Garcia restored the two-goal cushion with a clinical finish off the post.

Barca had more of the ball and another substitute, Tello, fired in their second, which beat the keeper at his near post.

In the final stages, Francisco Punal hit the post for the home side, while Sanchez had a goal ruled out for offside.

Earlier, a series of spurned chances saw Atletico Madrid draw 0-0 at struggling Real Racing Club de Santander, but the revival under Diego Simeone continued as they push for a place in Europe.

Atletico are a point above Athletic Bilbao, who lost 2-1 away to Real Betis Balompie after conceding an injury time strike from Nelson.

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