Barcelona earn much-needed win as Vitor Roque strike sees off 10-man Osasuna

By Sports Desk January 31, 2024

Barcelona returned to winning ways as substitute Vitor Roque secured a 1-0 home victory over 10-man Osasuna in the LaLiga champions’ first match since Xavi announced he is to stand down as boss.

Roque, the 18-year-old Brazil forward recently signed from Athletico Paranaense, opened his Barca account with a header just past the hour mark, a minute after coming off the bench.

Despite having Unai Garcia sent off four minutes later, Osasuna showed some threat as they sought an equaliser but Barca were able to see out the win.

Xavi’s men bounced back following successive defeats in the Copa del Rey at Athletic Bilbao and Saturday’s 5-3 home loss to Villarreal, after which the former Spain midfielder announced he would be leaving the club this summer.

The Blaugrana cut the gap between them and leaders Girona to eight points and, at least temporarily, moved up a place to third in the table ahead of Atletico Madrid.

Xavi made four changes from the Villarreal game, bringing in Ferran Torres, Pedri, Joao Cancelo and 17-year-old defender Pau Cubarsi.

One of the adjustments was enforced with Joao Felix dropping out after joining Barca’s lengthy list of unavailable players due to an ankle issue sustained in training.

And they were hit with another injury setback only a few minutes into the game as Torres suffered a thigh problem and had to be substituted, with Fermin Lopez coming on.

Robert Lewandowski nodded wide of the Osasuna goal soon after as he met a free-kick from Ilkay Gundogan, whose corner was then headed just over by Jules Kounde in the 35th minute.

The closing stages of the first half saw Lopez shoot too high and Kounde go close with another header.

There was further frustration for the hosts after the break with Lamine Yamal hitting a shot straight at goalkeeper Aitor Fernandez and a Gundogan header going wide before Roque, within seconds of replacing Lopez, connected with Cancelo’s cross to break the deadlock from close range in the 63rd minute.

Osasuna were then reduced to 10 men with Roque involved again, Garcia collecting a second booking having fouled the substitute.

That brought an admirable response from the visitors, with Raul Garcia’s shot hitting the post and Jon Moncayola bringing a good save out of Inaki Pena.

After Lewandowski saw an effort ruled out for offside, Pablo Ibanez then headed wide at the other end as Osasuna’s late push proved in vain.

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