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SANTI GIMÉNEZ | 27/01/2013
One thing became clear at Camp Nou this evening - only the brave would dare challenge someone like Leo Messi. It's a bit like plugging the toaster in whilst you are having a leisurely soak in the bath or for the less adventurous, running with the bulls in San Fermín if you are Australian. Some folk are not too bothered that he is the best, if you disagree, he will only go and prove you wrong. Hours before Osasuna's visit to Camp Nou, Cristiano Ronaldo had put in another exhibition display at the Bernabéu, scoring three goals in less than 10 minutes. Later, Messi put his own personal stamp on the meeting with the Navarros and went one better by scoring four. And it could have been even more if one or more of his efforts during the final 30 minutes had entered.
But apart from Messi's performance, Barça's muscle as a unit proved too much for the visitors on the night. No excuses about the referee this time, although, with this week's Clásico on everyone's lips, anything goes I suppose. Osasuna were reduced to 10 men before the half hour was up because of some absurd ruling which penalizes an involuntary handball but maybe not an intentional elbow in the kidneys. But that is not the fault of the match officials, it's just the rules and they have to be applied - probably by refs who, at some point in their lives, were forced to do military service.
There are unintentional handballs and then there are dubious offside decisions - easy to spot on television of course but a much trickier for those in charge out on the field of play. Pedro scored a goal which should never have been allowed as Alves had strayed offside and bizarrely, for the same reason, Messi had a perfectly legal one disallowed.
But enough of the moaning, the team that should have won did win because they were the better side on the day. Osasuna went into this game with the fourth best defensive record in the division (just 21 against) and shipped five. Barça must be doing something right.
The cushion of points they have at the top of the table is now so ample it wouldn't look out of place on a Marquis' bed, and for that reason Roura used the opportunity to rest some of the players who had their energy sapped in the Cup meeting with Málaga take a breather.
Apart from Piqué, who was suspended in any case, the coach left out Jordi Alba, Cesc and Iniesta and brought off Pedro and Xavi when the man who never rests - ever, Messi had put the game beyond reach.
IMAGEN: Messi no descansa nunca