Barcelona failed to capitalise on a Real Madrid loss, as they slipped to a 2-1 defeat away to relegation threatened Real Sociedad, who surely will consider themselves safe after such a spirited display. Thiago opened the scoring, but goals from Ifran and Xabi Prieto made sure that the points did not leave San Sebastian.
After the 3-2 loss to Zaragoza at the Bernabeu, Real Madrid had ensured that Barcelona only needed 4 points from their remaining 5 games to wrap up the La Liga title for the third consecutive season.
Guardiola’s team reflected this, with seven changes from Wednesday’s lineup. Among those changes, Montoya and Fontas were at right and left-back respectively, and Thaigo started his second consecutive league game. Also starting was Lionel Messi. The 52-goal man unexpectedly making the cut, despite rumours of an injury.
Would these changes affect the Blaugrana?
Course not! Messi went close on three minutes with a rasping volley that just curled away from the post, and Afellay forced a save on five minutes. The possession stats for the first 5 minutes? Barcelona 97%-3% Real Sociedad.
Barca looked to take their foot off the gas after this, and Tamudo nearly capitalised with a flying half-volley, but he couldn’t even hit the target.
Montoya was an unfortunate casualty, as he landed heavily after a rash challenge by former Espanyol man Tamudo, and reports suggest that he injured his collarbone on landing. Disappointing for the player who looked in line for valuable game time given the situation with full-backs, and the all but wrapped up league title.
That said, another 20 year-old could make a difference, and that was Thiago Alcantara, who picked up the ball after a miscontrol from Lionel Messi, and clipped it over the onrushing Claudio Bravo with his first touch.
He has some future ahead of him, and at the half, Barca looked on course to equal Sociedad’s long standing unbeaten record in La Liga, as well as taking a huge step to mathematically securing the title.
The second half started with Barca remaining on top, and Messi’s free-kick on 50 minutes really deserved better. To be honest, Barca looked to be conserving energy ahead of Tuesday’s showdown with Real. Even so, no-one really expected what would come next.
On 70 minutes, Diego Ifran, only on the pitch for 2 minutes, managed to find an equaliser. Ever the architects for their own downfall, Barcelona failed to clear a set piece, and when the ball came back in, no-one knew who was clearing it, and as Bostjan said in our gamethread, Ifran made his manager look like a genius.
Guardiola still had options on the bench, but then the killer blow. Gabriel Milito “scored” with a diving header, Barca thought they were back infront, but the linesman flagged for offside. Replays suggest that Milito was onside-ish, but I think it was a 50/50, and either case could be argued.
To rub salt in the wound, Milito injured himself in the process and Guardiola, who had a plethora of attacking options, was forced to bring on Busquets for the like for like substitution.
I thought that was bad enough, boy was I wrong!
A goal-kick led to a goal for Sociedad. Not even one of theirs, but one of ours. Tiki-Taka ‘til death is what the La Masia graduates are taught to play, but Mascherano and Pinto clearly didn’t receive the memo detailing that it shouldn’t occur in your own box. Especially with attackers in the immediate vicinity.
Mascherano couldn’t control a poor pass from Pinto, but to compensate, fouled the attacker. The ref pointed to the spot, and now I can see why Mourinho thinks there is a conspiracy. Blatant Barcelona favouritism right there. ;)
Prieto should have tucked it home, but instead he struck a poor penalty, but hey, Pinto wasn’t finished making errors, and he failed to make what appeared to be an easy save.
Nevermind, we are still closer to the title than Madrid are.
My choice for Man of the Match is Xavi, who dominated the midfield, and barely misplaced a pass. Maybe he should have took that goal-kick…
And just a quick word on Los Blancos. How will Mourinho park the bus, when the wheels appear to have fell off?
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