Barcelona off to their worst start in 11 years, Latest Football News - The New Paper

Barcelona off to their worst start in 11 years

Champions garner only 4 points from 3 matches, but teenager Ansu offers spark with record-breaking goal

Barcelona's young forward Ansu Fati, 16, became their youngest La Liga goalscorer on Saturday, but could not prevent his side being held to a surprise 2-2 draw at promoted Osasuna.

The result left the champions with only four points after three games - their worst start since 2008/09 .

Roberto Torres' thumping volley gave Osasuna the lead in the seventh minute to send the boisterous El Sadar crowd into a frenzy and Barca struggled to cope with the home side in a first half in which they failed to have a single shot at goal.

Barca were still without all-time top scorer Lionel Messi and fellow forwards Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele due to injury and coach Ernesto Valverde was left with little choice but to turn to the 16-year-old Ansu at the start of the second half.

The Guinea-Bissau teenager had become the second youngest player to play for Barca in the previous weekend's 5-2 win at Real Betis and he needed only six minutes to get off the mark, rising to head home a cross from fellow academy graduate Carles Perez.

Perez, 21, also provided the pass which led to Arthur Melo giving Barca the lead in the 64th minute by brushing off two defenders inside the area before delivering a superb strike into the bottom corner.

But even when they were in front, Barca looked far from comfortable against an Osasuna side renowned for their physical prowess and who are unbeaten at El Sadar in league games since April 2018.

Forward Brandon should have equalised for the hosts when he was unmarked in the area and got his head to a cross but missed the target.

Substitute Juan Villar was thwarted by Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen a minute after coming on.

Osasuna finally found their way back into the game when Gerard Pique was penalised for blocking a cross with his hand and Torres showed nerves of steel to equalise from the spot in the 81st minute.

"We did not play well at all, we were awful," Valverde said after his side equalled the poor start made 11 years ago by Pep Guardiola's side, who recovered to win the La Liga title.

"They went ahead and we couldn't get close to their area. Then, we dominated the play in second half, we took the lead and had the game in our hands but they came back at us and levelled with that absurd penalty.

"We cannot afford to let a game like this one slip, we should have been more assertive on the pitch and kept on attacking."

Pique felt hard done by to be penalised, insisting that the ball had bounced off his arm when he tried to block a cross.

"For me, that's not a penalty, I had no time to remove my arm, I was not taking up more space than usual, I jumped in a natural way," he said.

Pique admitted Barca had made a much worse start to the season than they expected but said there was no reason to panic.

"We would have liked to have taken nine points at this stage and we're having more problems than we expected to but we're not worried," he added.

"It's going to be a very long season and the important thing is that when we get to March or April, we have a chance of winning the league."

Osasuna coach Jagoba Arrasate praised his side's energetic performance, saying his players "showed real courage and got their reward".

His side moved to fifth in the table, with Barcelona two spots behind, although both could be overtaken after this morning's matches involving Mallorca and Valencia, and Real Madrid and Villarreal. - REUTERS