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Sunday 31. May 2009 - 22:20

Osasuna Edge Nine-Man Real Madrid To Secure La Liga Survival

Osasuna successfully avoided relegation as they came from a goal down to beat Los Blancos, who were condemned to their fifth straight loss to bring their season to a miserable end.

Real Madrid may already have secured second place but for Osasuna, they still had everything to play for in their relegation dogfight. The tiny Reyno de Navarra stadium was filled to the brim in a sea of red shirts as the fans came out in full force to support their side, who needed at least a draw to stand any chance of avoiding the drop.

It was no surprise then that the hosts started off with plenty of vigour and energy. They won a freekick on the left flank just seconds into the match but Patxi Punal sent his delivery well over the bar.

Madrid, to their credit, did not lie down and on ten minutes, they stung Osasuna completely against the run of play. Lass sent a superb vertical cross from the left to Gonzalo Higuain, and the Argentine easily skipped past Nacho Monreal into the box before unleashing a fierce low drive into the bottom corner.

The visitors threatened again almost immediately as Higuain and Marcelo combined to release Rafael van der Vaart, who slotted the ball clinically into the back of the net but the flag had gone up when Pipita marginally strayed offside.

But four minutes later, Jaroslav Plasil sent the Reyno into raptures when he drew the game levelled. The Czech jinked past Michel Salgado on the left and fired in what looked like a harmless looking low shot but Iker Casillas somehow let it slip between his fingers at the near post and the ball trickle over the line.

On 19 minutes, Osasuna should have gone infront. Gary’s poor clearance from Masoud’s low cross fell to Juanfran, but the winger completely shanked his left-footed volley from six yards out as he skied his shot high and wide.

Los Rojillos continue to pelt the Merengue goal with crosses and shots and in the 22nd minute, Plasil drilled in a low ball into the crowded box and Miguel Flano managed to connect with a slight touch but Casillas stepped off his line to make a point-blank block.

The capital giants finally relieved the pressure as they pumped the ball upfield and Raul’s deflected shot almost looped over an out of position Ricardo into the top corner of the goal, but it eventually sailed over the bar. Higuain then raced onto a long through ball in one of Madrid’s rare attacks but all alone upfront on the left channel, he tried to chip Ricardo but the Osasuna goalkeeper held his ground and easily plucked the ball out of the air.

The Pamplona-based outfit looked to have run out of steam as Madrid started to get a foothold of the game. However, on 42 minutes, they sprung to life and again came within inches of going infront, when Plasil teed up Masoud but the Iranian’s first time shot on the edge of the box was cleared off the line by Marcelo.

The home fans tuned in anxiously to their portable radios during the break to keep abreast of relegation proceedings elsewhere. And the nerves were felt on the pitch as the crowd fell into a hush and the Osasuna players struggled to find the spark they showed in the first period.

It was Madrid who had the first chance of the restart and they narrowly took the lead in the 49th minute when Marcelo pounced on van der Vaart’s blocked effort but the Br azilian’s rebound flew over the bar. At the other end, Pandiani rifled in an ambitious volley from 25 yards out but his shot was just too high. Moments later, Robben danced his way down the right flank and cut in past Monreal but his left foot drive sailed straight into Ricardo’s arms.

On 55 minutes, Osasuna were given a huge survival boost when Salgado was sent off for a last-man challenge on Plasil just outside the box, as the 33-year-old right-back’s Madrid career came to a pre-mature end.

The ensuing freekick only produced a corner but from there, the Navarrans almost scored from close range but Flano’s header from three yards out was saved brilliantly by Casillas.

As news started to filter in that Sporting Gijon had equalised against Recreativo Huelva, Osasuna cannoned into the lead in spectacular style right on the hour mark. Plasil’s freekick was easily headed clear but it fell to Juanfran, who rattled in an unstoppable volley from 20 yards out straight into the top left corner, leaving Casillas no chance.

Four minutes later, Masoud almost killed off the game for the hosts but his low shot from distance just shaved the right post, and straight after that, Pandiani’s half volley from the edged of the box was parried away by San Iker. Osasuna continued to pile on the pressure relentlessly as Masoud, Juanfran and Plasil all came within a whisker of putting the contest to bed, the latter coming especially close when his looping header from a Pandiani cross bounced off the crossbar.

They almost had to pay for their profligacy when van der Vaart’s freekick on 81 minutes brought out a nervous save from Ricardo, before Raul headed the Dutchman’s follow-up cross over the bar.

Los Merengues’ misery was compounded when substitute, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was sent off two minutes from time when he was flashed back-to-back yellow cards for a foul and dissent.

In the end, Osasuna easily held on for the win and it was enough to guarantee their top flight status for next season, while Madrid ended their tempestuous campaign in woeful fashion as they lost their fifth straight game.

Provided by: Frank Henriksen
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