Jordi Alba spared Barcelona’s blushes against a defiant 10-man Osasuna after his late strike earned the hosts a 1-0 LaLiga win at Camp Nou on Tuesday.
The substitute tucked a low finish past Aitor Fernandez at the near post in the closing stages to keep the Blaugrana on course for the title.
It was a major relief for Xavi after they failed to make the most of the extra point against the visitors following Jorge Herrand’s 26th-minute red card.
The win moves Barca to 82 points and potentially just a few games away from claiming their first LaLiga title since the 2018-19 campaign.
An otherwise tepid game that mustered little excitement burst into life shortly before the half-hour mark when Osasuna debutant Herrando brought down Pedri as the last man.
Referee Javier Iglesias waved a straight red to end the 22-year-old’s involvement before Raphinha cleared the crossbar with the ensuing 30-yard free-kick.
However, Barca still looked below their best and were forced to withdraw the limping Gavi before the break, although Ronald Araujo went close with a low header from the box.
With their man advantage, the home side stepped up their attempts to find an opener after the break, Ousmane Dembele firing over from close range just after the hour mark.
Robert Lewandowski looked to have finally made a breakthrough with just under a quarter of an hour remaining, only for Ferran Torres to be flagged offside as the hosts feared they would have to settle for a share of the spoils.
But Alba was there to score the winner in the 85th minute when he sent the home crowd into raptures with a neat strike between Fernandez and the post.
Barcelona player ratings (4-3-3)
GK: Marc-Andre ter Stegen – 6/10 – Just the 25 clean sheets for Ter Stegen in La Liga this season now.
RB: Jules Kounde – 5/10 – Tried to help when roaming forward but his role as essentially a wider centre-back was redundant against ten men.
CB: Ronald Araujo – 6/10 – Swept up all hopes of an Osasuna goal against the run of play.
CB: Andreas Christensen – 5/10 – Most of Osasuna’s attacks came down Araujo’s side instead.
LB: Alejandro Balde – 6/10 – Played with the freedom of an overlapping winger.
DM: Sergio Busquets – 7/10 – Controlled the game before being sacrificed for another forward late on.
CM: Frenkie de Jong – 8/10 – Played it safe plenty before assisting Alba with a wonderful piece of ingenuity.
CM: Pedri – 7/10 – Picked the Osasuna lock but was let down by his teammates at points in a frustrating yet ultimately successful second half.
RW: Raphinha – 6/10 – Had a lot of joy running at the visitors in the first half before being hooked early in the second.
CF: Robert Lewandowski – 6/10 – Scarcely involved until the latter stages but ultimately made his presence count.
LW: Gavi – 5/10 – Withdrawn in the first half with a groin injury.
Ansu Fati (36′ for Gavi) – 6/10 – Barcelona’s most effective winger, though even he had problems with his crossing and finding a clear route to goal.
Ousmane Dembele (53′ for Raphinha) – 6/10
Eric Garcia (53′ for Christensen) – 5/10
Ferran Torres (76′ for Busquets) – 5/10
Jordi Alba (76′ for Balde) – 8/10
Xavi – 7/10 – Barcelona eventually found a way through though had probably made lives easier for themselves.
Osasuna player ratings (4-3-3)
GK: Aitor Fernandez (7); RB: Diego Moreno (7), CB: Unai Garcia (6), CB: Jorge Herrando (1), LB: Manu Sanchez (6); CM: Pablo Ibanez (5), CM: Lucas Torro (5), CM: Aimar Oroz (5); RW: Ruben Garcia (5), CF: Chimy Avila (5), LW: Iker Benito (5)
SUBS: Enrique Barja (5), Iker Munoz (5), Kike Garcia (5), Juan Cruz (5), Aridane Hernandez (5)
Player of the match – Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona)
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