Described by Luis Enrique as the toughest away trip in the Liga and coupled with the fact that both Madrid sides had secured wins earlier in the day, Barcelona headed to Real Sociedad knowing anything less than a win wasn't good enough.
|Shots on Target||1||6|
Despite the importance of the game, Enrique elected to rest four starters due to this tie being sandwiched in-between Champions League ties against Atlético. Andrés Iniesta, Ivan Rakitić, Jordi Alba and the suspended Luis Suárez were replaced by Rafinha, Arda Turan, Munir and the bizarre choice of Sergi Roberto at left back.
These changes clearly unsettled the rhythm of the side and within five minutes, the home team had capitalised. A Xabi Prieto cross was well connected with by Mikel Oyarzabal. The Spaniard looked to head towards goal and the ball looped over a diving Claudio Bravo. It was 1-0 to the hosts and Barcelona had already given themselves a mountain to climb.
Real Sociedad clearly had a game plan. They were running more than Barça, closing down any space and forcing mistakes from the back four. They seemed sharper and it was looking more likely that the second goal would fall to them. That being said, Barça did have chances. A free kick in the 22nd minute seemed a prime location for Lionel Messi but the Argentine could only direct it towards the wall.
The Catalans were lacking a creative force as Turan continued his out-of-sorts form while Rafinha was showing signs of his long absence. The physicality of Suárez was also a big miss as any kick upfield was not taken down and neither Neymar or Messi could get into the game as a result.
It was a first half of few chances one of which fell to Turan. Receiving the ball near the penalty spot, he could only slide the ball into the arms of the keeper. That was the last meaningful chance of the half as the hosts retained their one goal advantage with relative ease.
After the break, Andrés Iniesta was introduced to the fray to inject some much needed creativity. He did this well, especially in the opening stages of the second period, as he pushed further forward than he usually does. However, the nerves were beginning to rise as Barça lacked that killer edge. Messi had seen little of the ball while Neymar had been almost non-existent.
Enrique decided to roll the dice and bring on Ivan Rakitić and Jordi Alba in the place of Sergi Roberto and Arda Turan, who had not had a good game and was perhaps lucky to remain on the field. But still, the Sociedad defence was resolute and Barcelona just could not break them down.
The Barça play was sloppy. Lacking anything meaningful in the final third and there was always a danger of a Real Sociedad counterattack. It looked like if they were to get anything out of this game, it would be through Messi, who has so often saved them in the past. His toe-poke in the 74th was well saved but his best chance came in the 86th. Dani Alves' cross found Messi who headed powerfully towards goal. But again, it was down the throat of Gerónimo Rulli.
Even with Gerard Piqué pushed forward, Barcelona could not get the equaliser as the game finished 1-0 to the home side. A result that proves the difficulty of a trip to the Anoeta but furthermore reopens the door in the title race.
|Roll Call Info|
|Commenter list||Abbas Kazemi, Abhiforbarca, AllAboutStyle, Anders Thomassen, AraibKarim, Artemis11, Ashraf Arefin, AzBlaug, Barca4lif, BarcaGH, Bithal, BlaugranaForLife, Daxterflames, Delano Heerkens, DevilWithin, FCB4Lyfe, FZBoy, GreyGhostIniesta, Haliaetos, KiwiBarca, Korosensei, MayteeA, Messician, My Name Is Dennis, NamesTroyResideInTheDMV, Navz, PG9, Patty Mills for three.. BANG, Rajesh1101s, Rihanon, SF49forLife, ShantanuC, Som-i-Serem, Steven Cordero, Swn.Culé, Tokjee, UnderConstructionCule, X-47B, Yuro_Doosh, ZTAhmad, ap cule, avyator, craig00000, darthvader17, deendana, fcbMSN_10, feeya7, fib1985, footballfordoze, getreus, henderick.mitchell, impossibletriangles, istiaque, messism, navjot4664, nosrejadorable, saltylures, somunequip, syredeathtrooper, waseem10|