A passionless Barcelona stepped on the historical inhospitable pitch at Anoeta in San Sebastian and were ran over by Real Sociedad. Gerardo Martino's rotation policy backfired in Basque Country as goals from Alex Song (o.g.), Antoine Griezmann and David Zurutuza were more then enough to see of Barcelona whose only reply came from Lionel Messi.
Shots on Target
Looking to end a seven year win-less run at the fortress that is Anoeta Tata Martino surprised with his starting lineup. Cesc Fabregas and Xavi both stayed on the bench with Andres Iniesta and Song starting alongside Sergio Busquets, with Song playing at defensive midfielder. Martin Montoya and Marc Bartra started after spending some time on the bench or even on the stands, while Adriano Correia started in place of the injured Jordi Alba. In attack, Neymar returned to the starting XI with Pedro starting on the wing across him.
As expected Barcelona started the game with the lion's share of possession, but wasted it before they could create anything because of a couple wayward passes and poor crosses. Real Sociedad meanwhile, as was the case in the recently completed Copa del Rey Semi-Final tie waited patiently for their chances.
The hosts were dangerous from set-pieces, a facet of the game Barcelona has notoriously struggled in. They won two free kicks in the opening twelve minutes, but Barcelona, and especially Victor Valdes, defended both situations very well.
In between the two free kicks Neymar received a hard knock on the same ankle that forced the Brazilian to miss a month of action. It was immediately clear that the contact gave Neymar quite some pain and he even spent some time on the sidelines for some repair work.
Barcelona struggled to create much against the organized La Real defense and at times it even appeared the hosts were dictating the tempo of the game. But in the 19th minute Iniesta made a brilliant run and played a one-two with Pedro that opened space for the Canary Islander, but Pedro missed the target from the edge of the box.
Then came a one of several pretty poor stretches for Barcelona as they struggled to maintain possession and Real Sociedad looked more and more dangerous. It started with a couple missed attempts by Carlos Vela and continued with a good save on a shot/cross by Valdes. And it continued to go downhill for Barcelona as in the 32nd minute Sociedad opened the scoring. Technically, though, it was Song who opened the scoring as he reacted poorly to a Gorka Elustondo missed header and chested the ball into the back of the net.
Considering both teams play things looked grim for Barcelona, but just four minutes later Messi, who was largely invisible until that point, leveled the score. Messi and Montoya exchanged a lovely one-two, that combined with a well timed decision by Busquets not to intercept the ball allowed Messi to take the shot and, maybe even a little bit unfairly, tie the game.
But Barcelona continued to struggle. In fact La Real continued to be the more dangerous side and Vela had in quick succession two more chances to change the score, one gifted to him by Gerard Pique, but the Mexican's struggles in front of goal continued. Barcelona were able to press forward a bit late in the half, but a poor cross and blocked shot from Adriano were all the Catalans were able to muster up before the halftime whistle.
Barcelona fans nervously awaited the start of the second half to see if Neymar would come out with the team as he didn't look comfortable on the pitch after the knock he picked up earlier in the game. However, Neymar returned to the pitch in the second half as neither team made any substitutions. That being said, one thing was different at the beginning of the second half with Tata Martino being ejected and forced to watch the remainder of the game from the stands.
Maybe that was a sign of things to come as Barcelona continued to struggle while Sociedad continued to play well, though with the distinction of better finishing compared to the first half. The half, however, started with both sides thwarting chances, with Bartra's header being comfortably saved by Claudio Bravo.
Then came a quickfire double by Real Sociedad that sucked the little life that was actually there from Barcelona. First Griezmann put the hosts in front and then Zurutuza added one. Both goals came off terrible reactions from the defense, and really, there were enough missed assignments on those two plays to share the blame between all of the four defenders (and Song for good measure).
A scenario in which Barcelona got anything from this game was difficult to imagine, but Barcelona weren't going to go down (completely) quietly. Quickly after Sociedad's third goal Cesc replaced Song and another good ten minutes later Alexis replaced Montoya.
With Sociedad pulling back and starting to play a bit more defensively Barcelona started to look better in attack, but still the Catalans couldn't get many good looks at goal. Just before he was subbed off Song had a good header on goal, but he saw it saved by Bravo, though everything else appeared to get shut down a play or two before Barcelona were even close to the penalty box.
Sad part is, that La Real actually came (much) closer to scoring the next goal, obviously after another mistake by the defense, Pique this time (again). Xabi Prieto effortlessly stole the ball away and found Vela in the middle, though the Mexican could only hit the post. After several moments of danger the ball was finally cleared. The remaining ten minutes were highly uneventful and it appeared that everybody was just waiting for the final whistle.
With the lost points Barcelona once again lost the La Liga lead and could drop a further place tomorrow when Atletico Madrid take on Osasuna. It appears the time has come for Barcelona to stop losing games in La Liga if they want to end the season as the Champions of Spain and there will be no better time to start a winning streak going than on Sunday when Almeria visits the Camp Nou.
|Roll Call Info|
|Commenter list||Anders Thomassen, Barcacatalunya, BartraFTW, BenX6, Blazing Saddles, Bobby213, Bostjan Cernensek, DJKOOL, Eddie Pundell, FCB4Ever, GasperSM, Harshiv Karia, Inder Methil, Iniesta_obsession, Ivan Muller, Jonni, LaSenyera, Lapulga, Maaz Rehman, Mauste, NoImagination90, Ricardo Blonde, Shaquille421, Som-i-Serem, ThreePar, Tokjee, Uncharted_Almo, ViscaViscaBarca, craig00000, david.james, fcb123, feeya7, hobo_barca, justdoit94, magical_messi, papant7, pogis1991, rnmrqz, stocks712, sudama.baraily, teamshao, tgmgg, thriller08|
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