Barca down Osasuna to set up Clasico Super Cup final

Osasuna’s Croatian forward #17 Ante Budimir fights for the ball with Barcelona’s Uruguayan defender #04 Ronald Araujo during the Spanish Super Cup semi-final football match between Barcelona and Osasuna at the Al-Awwal Park Stadium in Riyadh, on January 11, 2024. AFP

Robert Lewandowski and Lamine Yamal’s second-half strikes earned Barcelona a 2-0 win over Osasuna on Thursday and set up a Spanish Super Cup final Clasico rematch.

The Catalans beat Real Madrid in last year’s final and will face their bitter rivals again Sunday after Los Blancos beat Atletico Madrid in an eight-goal thriller in the first semi-final in Saudi Arabia.

“We want to take the ball off Madrid, that’s our DNA, we’re hugely motivated, it’s the moment to show our best football,” Xavi told reporters.

“We’re in another final, another Clasico, which was our main objective — we didn’t play a brilliant game, but a serious, sensible one.”

Osasuna goalkeeper Sergio Herrera kept Barcelona at bay before Ilkay Gundogan slipped in veteran forward Lewandowski to open the scoring before the hour mark.

The 35-year-old has not been at his best this season but finished clinically to give his team the lead.

Yamal, 16, stroked home his first goal since October in stoppage time to clinch Barca’s victory.

Beating Madrid last season in the Super Cup final earned Xavi Hernandez his first trophy as coach and set up the Spanish champions nicely for their league title tilt.

The sides will do battle again at the Al-Awwal Park stadium in Riyadh with Barcelona attempting to kick-start their season, which has started in disappointing fashion.

The victory over Osasuna was Barcelona’s first by more than a single goal since September, during an unconvincing run of form.

“It’s true that it’s been some time since we’ve won by more than a goal, but it doesn’t matter, it’s about winning, playing well, and we played a solid game,” Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong told Movistar.

“We have to improve, we are improving — it’s quite a new team this year with a lot of changes and you always need time to improve.

“(You need time) to get used to your team-mates, and we’ve had a lot of injuries too, we’re in that process and there’s a final against Madrid, it’s great, two top level teams.”

Record 14-time Super Cup winners Barca battled in the first half with Jagoba Arrasate’s side, runners up in last season’s Copa del Rey final against Real Madrid, and playing in the competition for the first time.

The vast majority of Saudi fans were supporting Barca but there was a strip of supporters dressed in Osasuna red, who cheered as Herrera pummeled Gundogan’s free-kick away.

Lewandowski headed wide when well-placed to score and at the other end Barcelona goalkeeper Inaki Pena made an impressive save from Ante Budimir five minutes before the break.

Raphinha limped off injured for Barcelona and was replaced by Yamal, who quickly threatened with his pace and incisive pass that Lewandowski could not force home.

‘We deserved more’ 

Lewandowski eventually struck in the 59th minute after Gundogan found him with a clever ball. The Polish forward carried the ball into the box and tucked a finish home at the near post.

Osasuna complained of a foul in the build-up by Andreas Christensen, but it was far from clear.

“It’s evident for me (and) whether it’s by chance or not, these fouls always go the way of the same teams,” Osasuna captain David Garcia told Movistar.

“I think overall we deserved more, I’m annoyed for everyone, the fans who came here and those who could not come and stayed back home.”

Xavi brought on Pedri Gonzalez for his first appearance in nearly a month after injury, and Joao Felix, who has fallen out of favour lately but immediately forced a brilliant Herrera save at full stretch.

Osasuna failed to put Barcelona under enough pressure to find an equaliser and Yamal slotted home at the death after good work by Felix to set up Sunday’s mouthwatering final.

“Every Clasico has its own story, we can’t predict many things, only that it will be an even game,” added Xavi.

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