Messi, Barcelona remember legend in winning style

Published December 1, 2020
BARCELONA: Osasuna’s Facundo Roncaglia (L) challenges Barcelona’s Lionel Messi during the La Liga match at the Camp Nou Stadium.—AFP
BARCELONA: Osasuna’s Facundo Roncaglia (L) challenges Barcelona’s Lionel Messi during the La Liga match at the Camp Nou Stadium.—AFP

MADRID: Barcelona on Sunday followed the advice of coach Ronald Koeman and paid tribute to their former player Diego Maradona with an emphatic return to form in La Liga and a 4-0 victory over Osasuna.

Maradona played two seasons for Barca.

Before the match, the club played ‘The Song of the Birds’ by Catalan cellist Pablo Casals as the teams stood around the centre circle where a Maradona shirt was laid on the centre spot.

Lionel Messi, who has inherited Maradona’s legendary Argentina number 10 shirt, bowed his head.

Flags at the Camp Nou flew at half mast, Maradona’s image was displayed on every screen and digital advertising hoardings while a club official held a framed Maradona Barcelona shirt.

The Catalans have been struggling in La Liga and started the game 14th.

Koeman recalled Messi and Frenkie de Jong and also started Antoine Griezmann.

Barcelona took the lead after 29 minutes when the ball lobbed into the net off Martin Braithwaite’s knee following a scramble in front of goal.

Messi seemed to be attempting a tribute to Maradona’s famous ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in 1986 as he leapt after the floating ball stretching his left arm toward it but the referee deemed he did not make contact.

It was Braithwaite’s first goal at the Camp Nou and followed the Denmark forward’s midweek strike in Kiev.

Griezmann scored with a powerful left-foot volley from outside the box in the 42nd minute.

The France World Cup winner then passed up a shooting chance in the 56th minute to roll a pass across the goal and set up a tap-in for Philippe Coutinho.

As Barcelona rediscovered their cutting edge, Ousmane Dembele had a strike ruled out for offside.

Messi got his goal in the 74th minute with a dazzling strike. He picked up the ball in midfield, danced past two defenders and smashed a rising left-foot shot into the top far corner.

Barcelona climbed to seventh, still 10 points behind leaders Real Sociedad, who drew 1-1 at home to third-placed Villarreal. Gerard Moreno scored a penalty after just six minutes for Villarreal at Anoeta but Mikel Oyarzabal replied with a spot-kick on the half-hour to earn the hosts a point.

La Real pulled a point ahead of Atletico Madrid despite the end of their six-match winning run in the league. However, Diego Simeone’s unbeaten side have two games in hand.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2020

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