A bittersweet Sunday evening saw us share the points against a stubborn Osasuna side as we registered our first point of 2024. Quiqué Sanchez Flores looked to build on an improved defence performance, remaining with five at the back and trying out a new midfield partnership.
The match began with another impeccably observed minute’s silence in honour of our three fans who tragically lost their lives in a road traffic accident while travelling to Madrid for our Copa del Rey quarter-final on Tuesday. A tribute was paid to one of the victims who was a season ticket holder by club president José María del Nido Carrasco, who laid a home shirt featuring his name along with a flower on his seat at the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuan.
The moving scenes gave the team ever more reason to put in maximum effort for the fans, and we began on the front foot. In only the fifth minute, Isaac received a well-timed through ball from Marcão into the box and danced past David García, before unleashing a right-footed shot across goal from the left-hand side that forced a save from Sergio Herrera.
An even first 15 minutes in terms of possession, although we created more in the way of clearcut chances. Isaac continued to cause issues for the opposition defence, finding himself in dangerous positions on that left-hand side again and again in the first half. These opportunities finally bore fruit in the 25th minute when Isaac found himself in a very similar position in the box after receiving the pass from Marcos Acuña near the left corner flag then turning Alejandro Catena and unleashing another shot across the goal. This time, the sheer pace meant Herrera had no time to respond as our young star continued his bright start to life in the first team by giving us the lead for the third time in the last four games.
We kept up momentum and quickly created another chance at the half-hour mark. On this occasion, Isaac played the role of assister as he played a short pass to Lucas Ocampos in the middle, whose close-range shot was put out by the Osasuna keeper with his legs. A couple of minutes later, Osasuna managed their first real chance of the match as Nyland contained, grabbing the spilt ball milliseconds before Budimir could poach it. On his first start, Lucien Agoumé linked up very well with Boubakary Soumaré as they oversaw a composed performance in midfield, which in turn offered more defensive solidity, recovering the ball well when Osasuna threatened on the counter.
Isaac continued to cause issues for the opposition defence, finding himself in dangerous positions on that left-hand side again and again in the first half. However, by the break Osasuna were edging possession, indicating that they were beginning to regain a foothold in the game.
When play resumed, we were the first to threaten when Acuña drove forward and unleashed an effort from outside the box that commanded another save from Herrera Yet, signs of an Osasuna comeback persisted as they registered more chances in the opening ten minutes of the second half. Then, in the 55th minute, a chaotic Osasuna corner resulted in a headed pass to David García on the edge of area, who swung it back into the mixer as Budimir stuck out a leg to send Nyland the wrong way.
Flores made lots of changes around the hour-mark, and it took to find our feet again, partly due to the introduction and subsequent withdrawal of Djibril Sow through injury.
With five minutes left, fate took a turn for the worse when Suso was given a yellow card and winning the ball in a tackle on Aimar Oroz, but after being reviewed by VAR, the follow through was deemed dangerous and the onfield decision was upgraded to a red card. We maintained our composure after being reduced to 10 men, with Loic Badé making a particularly crucial intervention in stoppage time
We mustered up one final charge as Sergio Ramos gathered the ball of the penalty area and released his shot which was saved as Rafa Mir came within inches of collecting another spilt ball, before Herrera swiped it away for a corner, in a cruel reverse of events from the first half. It summed up a game where we showed progress in creating lots of goalscoring opportunities and required just a bit more luck to execute more of them. Nevertheless, there was lots of cause for optimism as we head to Vallecas next week.