La Liga: FC Barcelona 4-1 Real Sociedad: Match Review

David Ramos

Recap of Barça's comfortable Jornada 6 win over Real Sociedad.

FC Barcelona hosted a Champion League team, Real Sociedad, at the Camp Nou in what promised to be a tight affair. In reality, however, it was as one-sided a league game can be with Barcelona racing to a three goal lead in the first half thanks to goals from Neymar, Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets. Teams exchanged goals in the second half, with Alberto de la Bella scoring for the visitor, and Marc Bartra replying for Barcelona.


Barcelona


Real Sociedad


Possession


67%


33%


Total Shots


23


9


Shots on Target


9

5


Pass Accuracy


93%


78%


Fouls


6


12


Offsides


3


0


Yellow Cards


0


1


Red Cards


0


0


The rotation of starters continued for Barça and Gerardo Martino, who for this game left Cesc Fabregas on the stands while Pedro took a place on the bench. Andres Iniesta returned to the starting lineup while Alexis Sanchez took the place of the hat-trick hero against Rayo Vallecano. In defense Dani Alves also started after he received some much needed rest on Saturday.

Immediately after the opening whistle Real Sociedad tried so surprise Barça with quick pressure toward Victor Valdes. And they were almost rewarded, but Haris Seferović's strike hit the crossbar. That shot never would've happened had Busquets and Javier Mascherano not hit each other. But the bigger problem resulting from that clash was the fact that the Argentine remained down and in pain. Mascherano was able to continue even though you could count Busquets' studs in Javier's knee.

Barcelona quickly took matters in their own hands after the early scare and five minutes in the Blaugrana were up 1-0. A mix-up in defense allowed Alexis Sanchez's cross to find Neymar in front of the net from where the Brazilian literally walked the ball over the line for his first La Liga tally.

From there it only got worse for the visitors. Two minutes later Neymar was again in the thick of things. He made a lovely run past Dani Estrada, who struggled all day with Neymar, and sent a dangerous cross to the penalty area. The cross was too high for Alexis and it appeared the chance would go begging, but out of nowhere Messi dove onto the ball and headed it in to double the hosts' lead.

Neymar continued to be involved in just about every play, and at the ten minute mark he went one-on-one with Claudio Bravo, but the Chilean read the play excellently and made a good save. Quickly thereafter Xavi put the ball into the back of the net, but the play was whistled dead, because Neymar, who assisted Xavi, was offside.

The relentless attacking by Barcelona persisted and it was just a matter of time before Bravo would again be beaten. That time came in the 22nd minute, just after La Real were forced into their first substitution, Imanol Agirretxe replaced the injured Xabi Prieto. But the goal didn't come easy. Messi had two chances to end the play with a goal after a long exchange in Sociedad's penalty area, but his first try was saved while the second was (barely) rejected by the crossbar. But just when it appeared the visitors cleared the danger Busquets unleashed a left-footed drive from 25-yards out that went just inside Bravo's left post.

Even with what appeared to be a comfortable three goal lead Barça didn't take their foot off the gas. First Alexis tried to curl one in but missed. Seconds later Alexis crossed the ball to Dani Alves who chested it in for what looked like a brilliant goal, but it didn't stand because Alves was offside.

Then Martino decided it's not worth keeping Mascherano in the game and risk further injury, even though it has since been confirmed as a hamstring injury, so he replaced him with Bartra. On the very next play the team combined for what surely would've been voted as the best team goal at the end of the season - if only Messi scored in the end. The play included several pinpoint passes, including two backheels, some brilliant dribbling, but all it lacked was Messi's finish.

In the rest of the half Neymar and Messi each had a chance to make the second half merely a formality, but neither of them could muster a good enough shot that would've made its way past Bravo. Not to be denied a shot on goal in the first half, the crossbar doesn't count, Antoine Griezmann, fired a good long range shot on goal, but it was well tracked and saved by Victor Valdes, who had just about nothing to do in the 43 minutes before.

The start of the second half wasn't much different to the first half. Barcelona continued to make pass after pass in Sociedad's third, but couldn't find that last pass that would result in the fourth goal of the game. But even when that last pass did come the finishing wasn't up to Barça's high standards. In as span of three minutes Messi and Neymar could've scored three goals, but their shots were either off target or too weak to trouble the goalkeeper.

With 30 minutes remaining in the game Barcelona decided they've done enough to secure the three points and stopped with the constant bombardment. In retrospect that doesn't seem like the best idea because the visitors were immediately able to make a dangerous run forward. Add to that some terrible positioning by Gerard Pique and you have a tap-in goal by De La Bella. In quick succession Griezmann also twice tried his luck from outside of the box, but both attempts were well saved by Valdes.

But while Real Sociredad's attack looked very potent, their defense at times resembled Swiss cheese. As soon as Barcelona returned to the attack they didn't need much time to create a dangerous chance.

Just minutes before what turned out to be the last goal of the game Martino pulled the hard working and often fouled Neymar to the bench and replaced him with Pedro. A couple plays later Messi showed some of his magic and made a run on the left side of the penalty box. Near the sideline he sent a low cross in front of goal where Bartra (!) was all alone and the young defender restored the three goal lead.

With the balance restored and the visitors losing all hope the game was going toward a rather dull ending. Especially considering the world's arguably best player was substituted off for Sergi Roberto in the 81st minute. But it wasn't all dull as Pedro and Alexis threatened to join the scoring party. Alexis was particularly unlucky on the very last play of the game when he connected with Alves' cross and sent a brilliant header on goal only to be denied by the post.

So the score remained 4-1, but in all fairness the score doesn't do justice to Barcelona and the way they play today. The first half was especially mesmerizing in so many ways and Barça should've been rewarded with a manita at halftime.

But there is not time to dwell on missed chances, particularly in a win, as the hectic schedule continues for Barcelona. The Catalans will again be in action on Saturday when they travel to Andalusia to face the newly promoted UD Almería. Almería have struggled so far this season as they are still winless, the biggest reason for that being their defense that can't keep opponents off the board.

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