Barca continue La Liga tug of war
Spanish champions retake lead from Real Madrid with goals from Ibrahimovic and Krkic.
Last Modified: 24 Mar 2010 21:45 GMT
Loving it: Ibrahimovic scored his first goal in open play since Valentine's Day [AFP]

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Bojan Krkic scored as Barcelona beat Osasuna 2-0 to go three points clear at the top of the Spanish Primera Division ahead of Real Madrid's visit to Getafe the next day.

The Sweden striker stretched to tap Maxwell's cross in from close range in the 72nd minute, his first goal in open play since February 14.

Krkic, who replaced Ibrahimovic for the last 20 minutes, met Andres Iniesta's cross in the 88th to make sure of the win.

Barcelona have 71 points, with Real Madrid on 68.

Lionel Messi started alongside Ibrahimovic and Thierry Henry at the Nou Camp, despite reports that the Argentina striker might be rested after scoring 10 goals in four games.

Ibrahimovic came close in the second minute when he fooled his marker and curled a shot toward goal that Ricardo Lopez saved.

However, Barcelona struggled to find their usual passing game and the visitors had the best chances early on.

Victor Valdes had to pull off a fine save to deny the unmarked Krisztian Vadocz in the fourth minute.

Barcelona's defence was then nearly caught out again when Masoud Soleimani crossed unmarked from inside the area and Carles Puyol intercepted.

The Catalans eventually started to take control of possession and Ibrahimovic was unlucky when his goalbound shot bounced off a defender and over the bar in the 30th.

Messi quiet

However, a well-organised Osasuna managed to keep Messi unusually quiet for much of the game as well as frustrating Henry, who was replaced by Pedro Rodriguez at half time.

Results & fixtures

Tuesday March 23

 Sevilla 1-1 Xerez
 Gijon 2-1 Deportivo

Wednesday March 24

Tenerife 2-2 Villarreal
 Barcelona 2-0 Osasuna
 Santander 0-0 Mallorca
 Valladolid 0-0 Espanyol
 Almeria 1-0 Real Zaragoza
 Valencia v Malaga

Thursday March 25

Getafe v Real Madrid
 Atl Madrid v Bilbao

The substitution nearly broke the deadlock immediately, when Messi just failed to connect with Pedro's pass over the Osasuna defence.

The hosts started to threaten more often and Yaya Toure was well placed to shoot when he failed to control a one-two off Ibrahimovic.

Seydou Keita then came on for Sergio Busquets, who was on a yellow card, the Mali midfielder drawing a save from Lopez within seconds when he headed Andres Iniesta's cross.

Messi's best chance of the game came when he cut inside and struck the post with his curling left-foot shot.

In Wednesday's other matches, Tenerife drew 2-2 with Villarreal, Almeria beat Zaragoza 1-0, Valladolid drew 0-0 with Espanyol and Racing Santander drew 0-0 with Mallorca.

At Tenerife's Heliodoro Rodriguez Lopez, Nilmar headed Villarreal ahead at the end of the first half before Juan Francisco "Nino" Martinez equalised in the 60th.

Jose Antonio Culebras gave Tenerife the lead in the 76th before Giuseppe Rossi pulled the visitors level two minutes from the end.

Later, third-placed Valencia host Malaga.

On Tuesday, Sporting Gijon beat Deportivo La Coruna 2-1 and Sevilla drew 1-1 with Xerez.

Atletico Madrid play Athletic Bilbao on Thursday.

Associated Press
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