The entertaining 1-1 second leg draw at Anoeta coupled with the first leg 2-0 victory by Barcelona earned Barça a place in the Copa del Rey Final, after missing out in the previous year. A first half goal by Lionel Messi made Real Sociedad's task look insurmountable and indeed the Basques only managed a late consolidation goal by Antoine Griezmann.
Shots on Target
Gerardo Martino left nothing to chance in the second leg against Real Sociedad, fielding a nearly identical line-up to the one in the first leg. The only change in the starting XI came on the wing where Andres Iniesta replaced Alexis Sanchez. This saw Barcelona play with Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Xavi at the same time on the pitch, something rarely seen under Tata Martino.
Barça started the game from midfield amid whistles from the Real Sociedad faithful. The hosts immediately countered with high pressure, but Barcelona were able to maintain possession well into the 2nd minute when Pedro's cross didn't connect with a Barcelona player. La Real would go another minute before their next touch, once again after a failed cross, this one by Dani Alves.
Though neither team managed to create any chances, half-chances even, in the early going, in the 8th minute Haris Seferović was brilliantly played behind the Barcelona defense. It appeared that he and Carlos Vela were going alone on goal, but the whistle blew for offside, though the replay showed that Seferovic was played onside by Alves.
The Basques continued to play a high risk high reward game, transitioning quickly from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-4 causing Barcelona plenty of problems. Both wingers were especially active, attacking with speed, trying to connect with through passes in the space between the center-backs and full-backs.
But even though both teams looked dangerous in attack, the first shot on target didn't come until the 21st minute when Alves fired a 20-yard attempt on goal, but Eñaut Zubikarai made a good save.
The next shot on goal, though, would be a goal. Messi picked off Jose Angel's pass near the midfield and took on the entire Real Sociedad defense by himself - a defense that still had five players back. But that didn't matter to Messi who darted between them to the edge of the box from where he fired on goal. Zubikarai, who proved to be difficult to crack in the first leg, appeared to be in good position, but looked like he saw the shot late and only got the fingertips on the ball which was not enough to prevent the ball from crossing the line.
With the away goal in hand things looked bleak for Real Sociedad as they would now need four goals to advance to the final, without allowing Barcelona to score a second time. But it was Barcelona who actually threatened first to change the score as Pedro was played behind the line, only to see his shot well saved by Zubikarai.
However, Real Sociedad replied quickly to that Pedro chance with a chance of their own, with Vela being brilliantly played through. One-on-one with Pinto, Vela put a relatively weak shot on goal that was slowed down enough by the Barcelona keeper that Alves was able to clear from right in front of the goal-post.
Barcelona continued to play brilliant football, displaying some of the crispest passing of the season. Everybody seemed to be on their game, with several players making brilliant runs past defenders and with back-heels aplenty. One back-heel even led to a mesmerizing goal, but Alves, who applied the finish, was correctly ruled offside. The home defense struggled with the speed of the game, but somehow they were able to hold Barça to just the single goal scored in the first half.
The second half began the same way the first one ended - with Barcelona pressing forward to extend their lead, the first good chance coming just two minute in, but Zubikarai was able to punch the ball out. Real Sociedad, now in desperate need of a goal, also spent some time in the attacking third, but Barcelona played a good team defense. But even though the Barça defense prevented the Basques from getting into the most dangerous areas, Vela was still able to hit the crossbar from a tough angle, from the right edge of the penalty area.
Barcelona had a near instant reply for the Vela chance, as after a couple passes in small space Cesc played Messi through, but Zubikarai was there to make the save. The rebound fell straight into the path of Cesc who had a go on goal, but once again there was Zubikarai to deny him of a goal. Just over a minute later Messi put another shot on goal, but again there was Zubikarai who wouldn't allow it.
Then it was Real Sociedad's turn to threaten, however, Javier Mascherano was there to save the day, not once, but twice. First he chased down Griezmann into the penalty box and with a diving tackle prevented the Frenchman from getting a shot on goal. About a minute later, on another counter attack, Mascherano stole the ball away from Griezmann before he could supply the ball to Vela.
In the 65th minute Tata Martino made his first substitution as Alex Song replaced Xavi, giving the midfield maestro some much needed rest. Quickly thereafter Barça missed another chance to put the game completely out of reach with Pedro missing the target from the left side after a good set-up by Messi.
Barcelona then effectively stepped on the ball, forcing La Real to play large chunks of the game without the ball. With the high pressure on for the hosts their defensive line often found itself stretched out, which allowed Barcelona to play quick one-two's in between their lines. A textbook example of how to beat an overstretched defense came in the 76th minute. Mascherano started the play with a long ball to Alves on the right, who played a quick one-two with Messi which sprung Alves alone on goal. But as so many times before in this game Zubikarai produced a great save.
After that play Alexis replaced Pedro who had a rather quiet game in attack for the Catalans.
Despite seeing very little of the ball in the second half, Real Sociedad still managed to threaten to score what at this point could only be viewed as a consolidation goal. And that was indeed the case as Griezmann was finally able to get a scoring chance without Mascherano in coverage. The hosts launched a very quick counter in the 87th minute with Gonzalo Castro supplying a cross to the edge of the area where Griezmann eluded Song and fired a thunderous drive that Pinto had no shot at.
La Real tried their best to earn another goal in the remaining time, but the only noteworthy play in that time was when Marc Bartra replaced Sergio Busquets who was on a yellow card. The one-all draw was more than enough for Barcelona to earn a place in the Copa del Rey Final where the Catalans will look to avenge the loss at the hands of Real Madrid in the 2010-11 Final.
As this was the last Copa del Rey game for Barcelona until mid-April the midweek time slot will now be filled by UEFA Champions League football. But before the Champions League, where Barcelona have drawn a difficult Manchester City side, restarts, the Catalans first have to take on Rayo Vallecano at the Camp Nou on Saturday.
|Roll Call Info|
|Commenter list||Anders Thomassen, Bostjan Cernensek, Eixample amigo, FCB4Ever, Jonni, Lapulga, NoImagination90, Ricardo Blonde, Sam Cooper, Som-i-Serem, Tokjee, ViscaViscaBarca, ade fox, craig00000, david.james, feeya7, footballfordoze, justdoit94, magical_messi, pogis1991, rnmrqz, teamshao|
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