A trip to Anoeta is probably the most psychologically trying fixture for the Blaugrana, having failed to collect all three points from the fixture in almost a decade. Barça returned to La Liga after having last drawn against Malaga in the competition. Sociedad however, were high on form, having won five games in a row, including a win against Atletico; Eusebio was doing a fantastic job with the Basques and the game wasn’t going to be easy.
Could Barça finally break the curse?
Luis Enrique picked his best possible line up with Andre Gomes slotting in for Iniesta in the Gala XI. With Real Madrid sitting on top of the table holding a 7-point lead, it was crucial for the Catalans to finally move past the figurative monkey on their back, and take all 3 points before they faced Los Blancos in the upcoming Clasico.
Eusebio’s new side looked absolutely dominating from the go, as they immediately charged forward from kick off, looking to find a chink in Barça’s armour as soon as possible. Their fluid 4-3-3 continued to apply pressure on Barça who were failing to string any number of passes together. Sociedad’s plan was simple- press, and press high. Looking at Barça’s form it wasn’t unusual to see Barça being dispossessed for the umpteenth time.
A dangerous cross leads to a header from Zurutuza, but MAtS was on hand to make the first of the many saves that he would make through out the match. Usually, in the first couple of minutes in any game, one can see Barça settle into a spell of possession as the opposition settles into shape, waiting to absorb and counter; Sociedad wouldn’t give Barça the chance.
A lot of action followed in the Barça box as Mascherano put the ball behind Barça’s goal for a corner. Jordi Alba however, was close by, to clear the danger from a teasing delivery.
A testimony to the Basque’s press was the fact that it took seven minutes for Messi to find his very first touch of the game, having been completely shut off from action due to some excellent marking and pressure in midfield. Interceptions followed in numbers as Sociedad stifled any play from the Catalans.
Xabi Prieto managed a couple of headers on the Barça goal in quick succession of which the former was saved by Ter Stegen while the other was a little off under pressure. It seemed like the Barça box was susceptible to any number of attacks without resistance.
Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique would both go down for apparently serious injuries within moments of each other. While both players looked to be in tremendous amounts of pain, it seemed like neither wanted to step away from the fixture as the duo manned it out and continued to play despite showing signs of discomfort through out the game.
In a forgettable half for the Blaugrana, Real Sociedad looked absolutely dominating in every aspect. Their link-up and possession was far superior than any thing that Barcelona could manage on the night. As the teams headed down the tunnel, one could only hope that Luis Enrique had one more magic-talk up his sleeve, to spur the Blaugrana to victory.
Rakitic got taken off for Denis Suarez at half time, which seemed like the right decision at the time; the Croatian had struggled all night against Sociedad’s press, and Barça’s play picked up a touch of pace almost immediately. Despite a new sense of vitality, Barcelona’s play failed to reciprocate, as the Basques drew first blood; Carlos Vela would take a powerful shot at the edge of the Barça box which Ter Stegen managed to charge at on time. However, the ball pinballed to Willian Jose, whose header went past Gerard Pique’s foot and found it’s way into the back of the net.
The first goal had broken down Barça’s spirit from bad to worse. It seemed like nothing was going to go right for the Blaugrana; Lionel Messi disagreed.
A quick counter attack allowed Neymar to stride past his fullback into acres of space before finding Messi loitering near the penalty spot whose shot went between three Sociedad defenders before finding it’s home in the bottom corner.
It seemed like Barça could find a way, as they continued to press harder and higher in the hope that they could actually draw any number of points at Anoeta.
Sociedad however, were on the shorter end of the stick as a perfectly legal goal was ruled off side, despite crossing the line twice in the same run of play. Denied, but not dejected, La Real continued to find way and make way for that elusive goal, but in vain. The referee called an end to the game.
In what was possibly the worst performance of the season, the Blaugrana were lucky that Lionel Messi still wears their colours. Like my commentator said-
In case of emergency, break the glass and find Messi.
With the way this team is performing at the moment, there is a good chance that Barcelona might have to look at other competitions if they hope to take a trophy home.
Maybe there’s light at the end of tunnel, and Barça find their way back to the top; If there is any light, it is hard to find at the moment.
Sociedad: Rulli | Martínez, Navas, Iñigo, Yuri | Xabi Prieto (Canales), Illarramendi, Zurutuza | Vela, José (Juanmi), Oyarzabal (Granero)
Goal: José (53')
Barcelona: Ter Stegen | Roberto, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba | Rakitic (Denis), Busquets, Gomes | Messi, Suárez, Neymar
Goal: Messi (59')