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Aug 27, 2012

Vilanova hails Barca resilience

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova praised his side's mental strength after they came from behind late on to eke out a controversial 2-1 win at Osasuna on Sunday afternoon.

Lionel Messi was again the Barca hero with a double strike to send his side top of the early La Liga table, but they were made to suffer at times.

"We did not play well, we conceded a lot of chances to our opponent," Vilanova said. "We showed our worth in being able to take the game. To be able to do that in this ground you must be mentally strong, motivated and ambitious."

Pep Guardiola's former assistant was sent to the stands by referee Muniz Fernandez for protesting a perceived foul on Sergio Busquets during a move which almost lead to Osasuna going 2-0 ahead. Vilanova said he did not understand why he had been dismissed.

"I just told the assistant referee that it was a foul on Busquets, I did not protest nor say anything in a bad tone," Vilanova said. "Now we are warned. We know the scale this referee uses."

Osasuna coach Jose Luis Mendilibar was even more angry with the officials, who he felt had erred three times during Barcelona's equaliser - obstructing Osasuna player Patxi Punal, not spotting a clear Alexis Sanchez offside and then sending off Punal for his protests.

"I believe we could not have done more to win the game," Mendilibar said. "It got away from us in one very crazy move: the referee obstructs Punal in the centre of the pitch and stops him winning the ball. They scored a goal, with a very dubious position, and on top of that we are left with one player less as he raised his hand in a gesture of frustration."

Double goalscorer Messi was unconcerned, saying that Barca had kept their wits to win the game.

"I had the luck to score twice, but as we always say, the most important thing is that the team keeps winning and continuing along this line," Messi said. "The game was very difficult, it is always tough here, we said that before coming. We knew how to respond to their goal, we stayed calm."

Andres Iniesta said that Osasuna's Reyna de Navarra ground - where Barca lost 3-2 last season- was always a difficult place to visit.

"They are three very important points because their goal made it difficult for us," Iniesta said. "Osasuna create chances out of nothing, a throw-in, a free kick. We won and we leave now very happy"

Next up for Barcelona is the Spanish Supercopa second leg at Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu Wednesday night, where the Catalans will likely be without Carles Puyol who suffered a suspected fractured cheekbone in Sunday's game.

"It will be another difficult game, and very tough," Messi said.

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