Barcelona are back to the winning ways and will be top of the table until Real Madrid and Real Betis kick off on Sunday thanks to a hard-fought 1-0 win over Real Sociedad at Camp Nou. The Blaugrana had to endure some tough stretches against a very good La Real team, but Barça had a solid performance and Lionel Messi won the game with a late penalty to give the Catalans three massive points.
Both teams play similar styles, like to press high up the pitch to cause mistakes and try to create chances through short passing and good movement, so it’s no surprise the first half was very even, with not a lot of spaces and mistakes and patient possession from both sides whenever they had the ball.
On the balance of play, Barça were slightly better when it cames to creating chances: Martin Braithwaite was the most dangerous player on the pitch in the first half-hour with his speed and smart runs in behind, and the Dane had two shots on target that forced Remiro to work. Lionel Messi raised his level as we approached halftime, missing at two big chances inside the box and constantly looking to link up with Braithwaite around the area.
At halftime the two teams were playing well, Barça looked closer to a goal, and the second half promised to be good.
The second half started like the first half ended, with Barça on top and creating big chances through pressing and good work with the ball, and Messi and Rakitic came extremely close to finding the back of the net only for Remiro and a great block from Diego Llorente to stop them.
Then Mikel Oyarzabal came on for La Real and the game changed: the visitors changed formations and started to win the midfield battle, and there were a few dangerous chances wasted by poor finishing and decision making.
As we approached the final 10 minutes the game seemed destined for a goalless draw, but after VAR alerted the referee to a clear handball by Le Normand inside the box, Barça were given a penalty that could win them the game. Messi buried the spot kick, and the Blaugrana had a late lead.
Sociedad had little time to try and equalize and brought on big Willian José to send some balls into the box and see what happened, but Barça managed to avoid any real trouble and even scored a second goal through Jordi Alba in the last play of the game, however the goal was disallowed for offside and the game finished 1-0.
This was as tough as expected and Barça played two solid halves against a good team and could have won by more because the chances were there. It’s not big progress, but it’s progress.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Piqué, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic (Vidal 73’), Busquets, De Jong; Griezmann (Ansu Fati 85’), Messi, Braithwaite (Firpo 89’)
Goal: Messi (81’)
Real Sociedad: Remiro; Gorosabel, Le Normand, Llorente (Zubeldia 70’), Monreal; Guevara, Merino; Portu, Odegaard, Barrenetxea (Oyarzabal 57’); Isak (Willian José 84’)