Zidane frustration snowballs amid Spain's Arctic onslaught

2021-01-11 12:06:37

Workers clear snow from the pitch before the start of Saturday's La Liga match between Osasuna and Real Madrid at El Sadar Stadium in Pamplona, Spain. The match ended 0-0. [Photo/Agencies] MADRID-Zinedine Zidane said Real Madrid's goalless draw with Osasuna on Saturday was "not a football match" and should have been called off after Spain was hit by a snowstorm. Real missed the chance to overtake Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga and allowed Barcelona to creep closer after Lionel Messi netted twice in a 4-0 victory over Granada. Atletico's match at home to Athletic Bilbao earlier on Saturday was postponed due to the Arctic blast, leaving Diego Simeone's side top with three games in hand over its rivals. Osasuna's pitch in Pamplona was certainly affected by the snowfall, especially in the middle, but large parts were green and the referee decided the match should go ahead. "We played the game because they told us to play the game but the conditions were very difficult," said Zidane. "For me this was not a football match. In the end we played, and that's it." Real is due to play Athletic Bilbao in Malaga on Thursday in the Spanish Super Cup semifinals. "We don't know what we're going to do now, whether we stay here tomorrow or if we're going to travel on Monday, we'll see." Zidane added: "It is not an excuse. What everyone wants to see is a football match and today the conditions were not met to see a football match." Messi's double against Granada made it four goals in three matches for the Argentine since the turn of the year. His resurgence has coincided with an upturn for the team too-this was Barca's third victory on the bounce. "We are calmer," said Barca coach Ronald Koeman. "We have to stay humble, to keep working and winning." Messi motoring Messi's brace-the second goal a sweetly struck freekick-came between two strikes from Antoine Griezmann, who is also enjoying a revival having struggled to settle at Camp Nou after arriving from Atletico 18 months ago. Some had wondered if Messi would ever get back to his best following an underwhelming start to the season but his latest contribution makes him the league's top scorer on 11 goals, five months after he tried to leave the Catalan club. "From day one, my interactions with Leo have been good," said Koeman. "We're used to this, if there are a couple of games where he doesn't score, there will be a couple of people who will be unhappy, but not me, never." Koeman deserves credit for the rejuvenation of players like Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and Frenkie de Jong, all of whom have improved significantly in recent matches. Barcelona's recovery has a long way to run, with unresolved issues on and off the pitch likely to resurface before the end of the season. Yet Koeman will hope a corner has been turned and at a good time, with the Champions League last-16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain to come next month and a large chunk of domestic fixtures remaining. Barca's first goal was fortunate, after Roberto Soldado's wild attempted clearance sliced backwards to Griezmann, who took one touch and fired past Rui Silva. Griezmann was the instigator for the second. The Frenchman drove to the edge of the area before feeding Messi, who shifted onto his left foot and curled home. Messi made it three from a similar position on the edge of the box, this time with a freekick which he harpooned into the corner. Griezmann added a fourth by firing in a scooped pass from Dembele on the turn. Messi was withdrawn with almost half an hour left, while Granada's Jesus Vallejo was sent off late on. Granada was spared the awful conditions that swept across much of the country, with the snowfall in Madrid on Friday the heaviest since 1971. In Pamplona, Real struggled to break down a determined Osasuna defense. Karim Benzema went closest after he scrambled home, only to be called offside. Atletico's game at home to Athletic Bilbao was postponed after the visitor's players were unable to land and returned to Bilbao early on Friday evening. Sevilla was able to play against Real Sociedad and won a 3-2 thriller, with Youssef En-Nesyri grabbing a hat-trick at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium. AFP