Raphinha came off the bench to head 10-man Barcelona to a comeback win at Osasuna, stretching their lead at the top of LaLiga.
Barcelona coach Xavi said he was proud of his team for overcoming several “unfair” decisions after they recovered from Robert Lewandowski’s red card to clinch a dramatic 2-1 win at Osasuna.
Things looked bleak for Barca going into half-time a goal and a man down at El Sadar, with David Garcia putting Osasuna in front after a potential foul on Marcos Alonso, before Lewandowski picked up a second card for a bad challenge on the goalscorer.
Things went from bad to worse at the break when Gerard Pique – who was named on the bench for his final game before retirement – was red-carded for dissent without even being involved in the fight.
However, goals from Pedri and Raphinha gave Barca a thrilling second-half comeback to move five points clear of Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga, leaving Xavi ecstatic.
Asked what he told his players at the break to spark the turnaround, Xavi said: “To believe that with 10 we could dominate the game, we had to be intelligent and our moments will come.
“It’s a very good victory, a victory of courage, family and there was a lot of celebration in the dressing room. It was very complicated to play with 10 and I’m very proud of the team.”
“We’ve grown. We’re a family, a group, a great dressing room, with a desire to win, and it shows. I’m proud.”
Reflecting on referee Jesus Gil Manzano’s display, Xavi said his team had been held back by a series of poor decisions.
“We feel aggrieved,” he said. “The first goal wasn’t even a corner, then there was a foul and then Robert was sent off. They were very unfair decisions, but the referee decides and we can’t do anything.”
Raphinh’s winner – a well-worked header from Frenkie de Jong’s cross – was the eighth goal scored by a Barcelona substitute in LaLiga this term, more than any other team.
Meanwhile, the Blaugrana’s tally of 37 points from 14 games is their joint-third highest at this stage of the season in LaLiga (after collecting 40 points in 2012-13 and 2013-14) and Raphinha believes they have the fight they need. race for the title.
“I had to think fast,” the Brazilian winger said of his goal. “The keeper thought I was going to have control of the ball and that’s why he went to me, but I knew he was going to do it.
“We knew it was going to be very difficult and it was. It was complicated by the sending off of Lewandowski and from then on we knew we would have little chance of a result.”
“The game was very difficult, but if we want to win LaLiga, we have to win these games and, like today, we also have to know how to suffer.”