Halfway through an intriguing second half, with the scoreline standing at an unlikely two apiece between Real Madrid and their humble visitors Osasuna, Iker Casillas suddenly found himself confronted by two red shirts. Krisztian Vadocz, scorer of the third goal of the night, was wearing one and the Iranian international Masoud Shojaei was wearing the other.
With a slightly disjointed Los Blancos looking in real danger of dropping crucial points in the title race, it could and perhaps should have been the most important goal for Barcelona this season not actually scored by the Blaugrana. Vadocz understandably shifted the ball to his right but Masoud, perhaps not expecting the pass but certainly attempting to ensure he did not run ahead of the ball, slipped at the vital moment. It was a glorious opportunity and its passing seemed sure to signal a Real victory.
At the other end, a 38-year-old was trying his utmost to prevent the seemingly inevitable. The former Manchester United goalkeeper Ricardo stayed nervously on his line for long periods as more than 25 shots rained down on the Osasuna goal. Unfortunately for the veteran keeper, he stood rooted there as Gonzalo Higuain’s cross sailed over his head to the far post with a minute and a half of normal time remaining. Far lesser players than Cristiano Ronaldo would have managed to nod it home unchallenged from a yard just like the Portuguese did.
The game had been just seven minutes old when the hosts surrendered the opening goal to Los Rojillos. Raul Albiol had only to control the ball and knock it calmly back to Casillas to avoid a horror show. Instead, facing his own goal, he miskicked and allowed lone striker Aranda through to give Osasuna a shock lead.
Although a trademark solo goal from Ronaldo pulled Real level, they fell behind again three minutes before the break. This time, Aranda held the ball up well and managed to find Vadocz who evaded the attentions of Fernando Gago all too easily before slamming a shot past Casillas at his near post. However, Marcelo headed home a second equaliser for the home side a minute before the break and, after Masoud’s horrendous missed chance, Manuel Pellegrini’s title-chasers needed just one goal to stay on Barcelona’s coat-tails.
Barca themselves were in imperious form at El Madrigal on Saturday night, lashing home three fine first-half goals to put their midweek Champions League exit firmly behind them. Lionel Messi’s 41st goal of the season gave the visitors the lead. Xavi’s through ball for the Argentine was perfect but he still had much to do. For Messi, though, nothing appears impossible. The little genius spun away towards goal and deserved the deflection that took his effort beyond Diego Lopez.
Villarreal were two down when Xavi flighted a free kick beyond Lopez’s flailing grasp and Bojan struck a fine third before the break. Substitute Joseba Llorente pulled a goal back for El Submarino Amarillo but they were sunk late on when Messi grabbed his second of the night after Xavi set Dani Alves free down the right.
In midweek, Barca are tasked with what should be a routine home clash with Tenerife while Real are forced to take to the skies for their tricky trip to face Champions League-chasing Mallorca. With Barca’s penultimate game away to Sevilla, Mallorca’s rivals for fourth spot, Pep Guardiola’s league leaders will be hoping that Gregorio Manzano can mastermind a victory over Los Blancos on Wednesday evening to ease their nerves. Indeed, a Barca win the previous night could then see the title return to the Camp Nou should Mallorca subsequently triumph over Pellegrini’s men.