Barcelona started a new era with a very good overall performance and a 4-2 win over Real Sociedad at Camp Nou in the opening match of the La Liga season. Barça played a sensational first half and were strong for 70 minutes, but allowed La Real to get back into the contest and had a few nervous moments late before putting the game away in injury time.
The first 30 seconds of the game set the tone for Barça’s performance: they were going to play fast, not be afraid to go long at times and make as many runs in behind as possible. That’s how Neto played a ball 50 yards down the field to find Memphis Depay, who then released Martin Braithwaite and the Dane fired a shot on target.
Barça were extremely impressive in the first half, with a flow to their attack rarely seen under Ronald Koeman. Players were passing the ball quickly to each other, taking two or three touches before finding a teammate and someone else was always making a run into space.
Without the ball Barça were excellent as well, pressing high up the pitch to steal the ball and create chances but also controlling La Real’s counter attacks and defending deep inside their half when necessary.
And the Blaugrana got two first-half goals to show for their dominance: first it was Gerard Piqué who headed home a perfect cross from Memphis, and Braithwaite got his own header in after a great cross by De Jong.
At halftime, a brilliant Barça performance was rewarded with two goals and an opening-day victory was just 45 minutes of solid football away.
La Real made two halftime substitutions and came out with a lot of intensity and high pressing, and they created three solid opportunities in the first 10 minutes of the half with Mikel Oyarzabal at the center of everything good for Sociedad.
There was never a truly dangerous chance for the away team, however, and Barça seemed to put the game away with half an hour to go when Braithwaite scored his second of the game after a brilliant team move down the left wing.
But Barça relaxed after going up 3-0 and allowed La Real to grow into the game in the final 15 minutes, and things got nervous in a three-minute span: first it was Lobete who found the back of the net after a brilliant run and assist by Barrenetxea, and then Mikel Oyarzabal scored a sensational free-kick to make it 3-2 with five minutes to go.
Barça badly needed a fourth to kill the game off, and they got it thanks to a great counter-attack and a tap-in for Sergi Roberto after an assist by Braithwaite. The final whistle came to end a very encouraging first performance of the season, and despite the two late goals conceded this was much, much better than expected. If the first half can be the norm, this team is going places.
Barcelona: Neto; Dest (Royal 70’), García (Araujo 83’), Piqué, Alba; De Jong (Roberto 70’), Busquets (Nico 83’), Pedri; Griezmann, Memphis (Lenglet 90’), Braithwaite
Goals: Piqué (19’), Braithwaite (45’+2, 59’), Roberto (90’+1)
R. Sociedad: Remiro; Zaldua (Gorosabel 66’), Elustondo (Pacheco 81’), Le Normand, Muñoz; Zubimendi, Merino; Januzaj (Barrenetxea 46’), Silva (Bautista 46’), Oyarzabal; Portu (Lobete 66’)
Goals: Lobete (82’), Oyarzabal (85’)