Barcelona have won their first La Liga match of the season thanks to a fantastic 4-1 victory against Real Sociedad at the Cauldron of Anoeta on Sunday night. The two teams played a wild first half, but Barça showed their superiority in the final period and took all three points on the road thanks in large part to a spectacular substitute cameo from Ansu Fati.
Xavi Hernández decided to send his Barça troops out in an ultra-offensive 3-2-4-1 formation designed to suffocate Sociedad and attack for the entire half. Things got out to a perfect start just 50 seconds in, thanks to a brilliant solo run by Alejandro Balde and a beautiful assist to Robert Lewandowski for his first competitive goal for the club.
But La Real equalized just five minutes later with a strange goal scored by Alexander Isak, and the game was all square once again after a crazy start. But the insanity was just beginning as both teams turned a football match into a basketball game with non-stop, up-and-down action with constant counter attacks and big chances for both sides.
Barça’s suicidal formation left them wide open against a fast-moving, dynamic Sociedad attack, while the visitors couldn’t cope with the Blaugrana’s pace and skill on the counter. There were loads of major moments, but somehow no other goals were scored.
Marc-André ter Stegen made two incredible saves in the half, while Ferran Torres and Lewandowski each missed a big chance on the other end. There was also a lot of physical play and plenty of fouls, and the crowd only added to the craziness with their constant noise.
At halftime, a wild 45 minutes ended with a goal for each side and the promise of even more fun in the final period.
The pace of the game slowed down a bit in the second half as Sociedad couldn’t keep up the same intensity with their pressing, while Barça did a better job taking care of the ball and not allowing easy counter attacks. The home team thought they had taken the lead on a set piece, but Robin Le Normand was offside and the goal was ruled out.
The two defenses looked a little more organized as the half went on, but Barça slowly started finding more spaces with their passing and movement, and one key substitution made the difference: Ansu Fati came off the bench and instantly assisted the second goal with a sensational backheel pass to Ousmane Dembélé, who fired it home and put the visitors ahead.
Just two minutes later Ansu was again heavily involved in a goal as he received a pass from Pedri inside the box and played it perfectly into the path of Lewandowski, who doubled the lead with his second goal of the night. With a crucial advantage going into the final 15 minutes, Xavi changed back to a 4-3-3 to make his team more organized at the back and the Blaugrana started running the clock out by keeping possession.
The Catalans kept attacking looking for the game-clinching fourth goal, which came with 10 minutes to go when Lewandowski’s pass was deflected into the path of Ansu Fati who calmly passed the ball into the net to make it 4-1 and guarantee the victory. Sociedad tried to get a second goal in the dying moments but Barça stayed organized, and the final whistle came to give them all three points at Anoeta.
This was just as tough as expected in the first half, but the squad depth and Xavi’s courage and excellent game management made the difference in the second. A huge result, an excellent performance, and a brilliant night for Lewandowski and Ansu Fati. Perfect Sunday.
Real Sociedad: Remiro; Elustondo, Zubeldia, Le Normand, Muñoz; Zubimendi; Méndez, Silva (Turrientes 71’), Merino; Isak (Navarro 70’), Kubo (Cho 71’)
Goal: Isak (6’)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Araujo, Christensen, Eric; De Jong (Roberto 85’), Gavi (Kessie 85’); Dembélé (Alba 72’), Pedri, Ferran (Fati 64’), Balde (Raphinha 64’); Lewandowski
Goals: Lewandowski (1’, 68’), Dembélé (66’), Ansu Fati (79’)