Lionel Messi assisted on a pair of thunderous strikes from Jordi Albaand Ilaix Moriba to help lift Barcelona to a 2-0 victory over Osasuna on Saturday night at El Sadarin Pamplona.
The Argentine pulled out his magic wand on the half hour mark to deliver a ball to the left-back, who then promptly fired a bullet into goal. That was followed by a simple dish to Ilaix, who hammered a left-footer into net for his first Barcelona goal.
Adding his name to the list of heroes was goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who made several top saves in the first half to help Barcelona keep the clean sheet. The victory lifts Barcelona to within two points of league leaders Atletico Madrid, who will be in action on Sunday in a pressure-packed derby against Real Madrid.
Ronald Koeman stuck with three centre-backs in defence, with Samuel Umtiti coming in for the newly injured Gerard Pique, while in attack Antoine Griezmann was back in the fold as a starter, meaning Ousmane Dembelewas on the bench.
Osasuna had a spring in their step to start, as they looked to take advantage of Barcelona‘s heavy legs and almost broke through early when Kike Barja fired a shot goalward that drew a flying save from Ter Stegen.
Back came Osasuna and a last-ditch intervention from Umtiti prevented Jonathan Calleri from connecting on Kike Barja‘s cross.
It took the wizardry of Messi to finally break the deadlock, with a magnificent pass from the Argentine curled into Alba on the left wing and the full-back took over from there, blasting a shot into the top left corner for a Barcelona lead.
Osasuna were undeterred and, using a soft touch to dance past Oscar Mingueza, Ruben Garcia looked set to equalise but could not find a way past Ter Stegen.
Koeman made an attacking change to start the second stanza, with Dembele on for Umtiti, reverting Barcelona back to a four-man back line. The change helped Barcelona gain a firm control on proceedings and limited Osasuna going forward.
Midway through the half Griezmann and Sergio Busquets were next to get the hook, with Martin Braithwaiteand Ilaix on to close things out.
Osasuna still had another charge in them, though and Calleri was unlucky not to have scored on two headers in the span of a minute, the later flashing just wide of Ter Stegen‘s post.
Barcelona looked to put the three points on ice and this time a pair of youngsters teamed up with old man Messi to deliver the killer blow. Pedri flipped a pass into Messi, who then found Ilaix and, after taking a touch, the 18-year-old sent a left-footed rocket into net to round out the 2-0 final scoreline.
0.- Osasuna: Sergio Herrera, Nacho Vidal, Aridane, David Garcia, Manu Sanchez, Torro (Oier, min. 84), Moncayola, Roberto Torres (Enrico Gallego, min. 84), Ruben Garcia (Adrian Lopez, min. 71), Kike Barja (Jony, min. 62), Calleri (Budimir, min. 71).
2.- Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Mingueza, Lenglet, Umtiti (Dembele, min. 46), Dest, Busquets (Ilaix, min. 67), De Jong, Pedri (Riqui Puig, min. 87), Jordi Alba (Junior Firpo, min. 87), Griezmann (Braithwaite, min. 67), Messi.
Goals: 0-1, min. 30: Jordi Alba; 0-2, min. 83: Ilaix
Referee: Cuadra Fernandez (Madrid).
Yellow cards: Umtiti (Min. 26) for Barcelona, Junior Firpo (Min. 88) for Barcelona
Red cards: None
Stadium: El Sadar