BARCELONA (Reuters) – Lionel Messi personally paid tribute to the late Diego Maradona after scoring a goal on Sunday as Barcelona returned to winning ways in La Liga with a 4-0 home win over Osasuna.
Messi decorated a brilliant team performance with a blow to the top corner in the second half after Martin Braithwaite broke the impasse and Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho hit both sides of the half.
The Argentine then picked up his shirt and revealed a red and black replica kit from his home club Newell’s Old Boys, number 10, that Maradona wore during his brief stint at Rosario in 1993.
Before kick-off, the Catalans paid homage to Maradona, who played for the club from 1982 to 1984 in an eventful but disappointing period, hanging a framed, signed shirt over the presidential box while the players observed a minute’s silence old Barca shirt with the number 10.
Barca defender Clement Lenglet hobbled away with an ankle problem, leaving his side out of shape with injuries to Samuel Umtiti, Ronald Araujo and Gerard Pique.
The win followed Barca’s 1-0 defeat at Atletico Madrid last week, putting them in seventh place overall with 14 points after nine games, nine behind leaders Real Sociedad and second-placed Atletico.
Griezmann added: « We didn’t know what Messi had prepared in honor of Maradona, it was a nice surprise.
« It was very important to win today because the teams at the top keep winning and we can’t afford to slip any more. We know it will be difficult, but we showed today that we want to win the league and that we have a team that can. «
Messi had taken a rare midweek break when he and Frenkie de Jong stayed at home for Barca’s 4-0 away win over Dynamo Kyiv, securing their spot in the Champions League knockout stage.
Coach Ronald Koeman gave Martin Braithwaite another start after the Dane impressed against Dynamo, and Barca benefited from a stronger presence in the region that they have lacked since separating from Luis Suarez.
Barca could have taken an early lead with a brilliant move between Messi, Griezmann and Coutinho, but Osasuna defender Unai Garcia cleared Coutinho’s shot off the line.
Braithwaite eventually gave Barca the lead by bundling the ball over the line in a gullet fight, while Griezmann doubled his lead with a savage volley from outside the box.
Griezmann, who also scored against Dynamo, scored the third goal by passing to Coutinho, who could barely miss from close range.
Ousmane Dembele thought he’d gotten a fourth, but a VAR review ruled offside. Instead, and appropriately enough, it may have been Messi who had the final say.
FC Barcelona, Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona, CA Osasuna, La Liga, Ronald Koeman, UEFA Champions League, Argentina national football team
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