In front of a ridiculously empty Camp Nou, only 38,505 people showed up, close the lowest Copa del Rey semi-final attendance in 1984 against 2nd division Las Palmas when 30,000 fans watched the game, Barcelona earned an important two goal cushion ahead of the second leg. But all things considered, it could've been worse, as for Barça only Sergio Busquets was able to find the back of the net, with the second goal being credited to the Real Sociedad goalkeeper himself.
Shots on Target
We've become used to Gerardo Martino rotating up to nine players from match to match, especially if one of the games is in the Copa del Rey, but that was not the case this time. In fact there was no sign of any rotation whatsoever as apart from the usual change in goal in the Copa the rest of the lineup remained the same as in the disappointing match against Valencia on Saturday.
Barcelona started the game dominating possession, but it was Real Sociedad who created the first scoring opportunity of the game. Carlos Vela made easy work of Javier Mascherano and found Antoine Greizmann in space. The Frenchman fired from about 20-yards out, but Jose Manuel Pinto was in good position to make the strong save.
La Real remained dangerous on the counter, but it was Barcelona who were dictating the pace of the game. And there were holes in the Basque defense for Barcelona to exploit. First Pedro came close with a long range effort, and then, in quick succession, two chances presented themselves of which at least one should've been converted.
First Cesc Fabregas was able to connect with a good cross from the right side, but because he didn't make good contact it allowed Eñaut Zubikarai to come over and make the save. From the ensuing corner kick Cesc had a go from 25-yards out, however, his shot was well saved by Zubikarai, but the rebound fell straight to Alexis Sanchez, who from a good position put it wide.
In the 26th minute Barcelona had arguably the best opportunity of the game so far, and because it came to Lionel Messi many though of the result as a foregone conclusion. But it was not. Cesc sent a perfect cross in front where it was brilliantly tipped on goal by Messi, but Zubikarai made a fantastic save. Messi had another chance, a better one, on the rebound, but he didn't strike it cleanly and the chance went begging.
Barcelona continued to barrage the Sociedad penalty area, but Zubikarai always appeared to be in the right spot. The goalkeeper kept making save after save, including a dandy on Cesc's cross that would've sneaked inside the far post.
But when Zubikarai was beaten, in the 39th minute, he received some much needed help from the crossbar. Messi won a free kick in the perfect position for him, 20-yards out on the right side. A free kick that he curled brilliantly only to be denied by the frame of the goal.
Sociedad, however, despite defending in numbers at all times needed very little time to create chances. In the 43rd minute Vela once again escaped Mascherano on the counter, but this time the Argentine was able to harass Vela enough, maybe even enough for a penalty, that he wasn't able to get a perfect shot on goal. The shot, however, was still very good and Pinto did very well to prevent the visitors from scoring the first goal of the game.
On Barça's next attack, however, the scoreless tie was finally broken. Pedro was looking to fire a volley on goal, but slightly mishit it and with the ball receiving a deflection it fell straight to the waiting Busquets. Busquets wasted no time in getting the ball into the back of the net for the Barcelona lead.
Same chaotic scenes ensued immediately after the goal with several Sociedad players surrounding the referee. What exactly was going on is a mystery, but the result of the shenanigans was a red card for Iñigo Martínez.
Both teams started the second half with the same personnel they concluded the first with. With La Real down to 10 men Barcelona were looking to add their lead in attempt to make the second leg as much of a formality as possible. But even though Sociedad were a man down they maintained good defensive shape and didn't allow Barcelona much more than they did in the first half.
That being said, that was still enough for Barcelona to get some good chances on goal. But it was only after the one hour mark that the Catalan's were able to celebrate a goal, one that will be difficult to replicate. Alexis was brilliantly played through by Cesc, who made several fantastic passing plays, but the Chilean was unlucky to hit the inside part of the post. Gorka Elustondo was first to the loose ball and decided to clear the ball across his own goal, but hit it straight into Zubikarai and into the back of the net.
At this point I was distracted by an annoying fly that kept buzzing around, but the issue was eventually resolved.
Barça meanwhile continued to press for another goal, but many of their shots missed the net. In fact 19 of them went wide of the goal (three into the frame) while only seven went on target. However, only two shots on goal after the own goal posed any real threat of changing the score. The first came from Xavi who fired a 25-yard try destined for the bottom corner, but there was Zubikarai once again to make the diving stop. The second was put on goal by Messi, who got excellent contact on Pedro's cross, but the Real Sociedad goalkeeper made an even better save to preserve the "live result" for the Basque side.
The two goal lead will be difficult for Real Sociedad to overcome even though they always seem to be one of the most difficult opponents for Barcelona, especially away from home. But before we come to the second leg Barcelona will try to return to winning ways in the La Liga where they will on Saturday face Sevilla at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán.
|Roll Call Info|
|Commenter list||Anders Thomassen, Astronaldo, BenX6, BenX6WillDie, Bostjan Cernensek, BuehrleMan, Eddie Pundell, FCB.HKHME, GasperSM, Ian Reynolds, Iniesta_obsession, Maaz Rehman, NoImagination90, Ricardo Blonde, Richzorz, Som-i-Serem, ThreePar, Tokjee, Uncharted_Almo, ViscaViscaBarca, alexreg90, craig00000, feeya7, footballfordoze, hobo_barca, ikool, paola baranzika, pogis1991, rahiemdiaz, rnmrqz, teamshao, tgmgg|
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