Barcelona are moving on to the Copa del Rey semi-finals thanks to a hard-fought 1-0 win against Real Sociedad on Wednesday’s quarterfinal at the Spotify Camp Nou. Barça played some very good football at various points in the game but couldn’t put it away, and Sociedad proved just how tough they are and never went away despite playing the entire second half with 10 men.
Barça made a very good start to the game, with a quick and incisive attacking gameplan that found loads of space in behind the Sociedad defense and led to some very good chances. Frenkie De Jong had the best of them but couldn’t hit the target, and the Blaugrana should have had the lead after a sensational opening 25 minutes.
But as they tend to do La Real found a way to weather the storm and grow into the game, and they did it mostly through physicality with some very tough challenges and fouls to slow down the Barça attack. They also were dangerous on the counter, and Take Kubo nearly scored a sensational opener with a rocket into the crossbar.
As we moved closer to the break it felt as though Sociedad were becoming the better team, but the game changed when Brais Méndez was given a straight red card after a VAR review showed a very dangerous tackle by the midfielder on Sergio Busquets.
The visitors managed to stay in the game until the halftime whistle, but the game certainly would have a very different dynamic in the second half.
Sociedad changed to a 5-4-0 formation to start the final period with the sole purpose of defending for their lives for as long as possible to try and launch a late blitz to steal the game late.
But Barça didn’t give them any time to execute their strategy with a very early goal: Jules Kounde played a fantastic through ball to find Ousmane Dembélé on the run and the Frenchman fired a rocket to the roof of the net off the keeper’s hands to give the Blaugrana the lead.
Despite scoring the goal Barça didn’t take advantage of the opportunity of increasing their lead against 10 men, and simply fell asleep and allowed La Real to create a lot of danger on the counter. Alexander Sorloth should have equalized with a tap-in from just 4 yards out, but the striker inexplicably sent the shot over the bar.
The home team woke up after that dull period and took control of the ball again, and nearly made it 2-0 with a Gavi shot against the crossbar. Barça looked like themselves again and Dembélé continued to look nearly unstoppable on the right wing, but as we reached the final 10 minutes this was still an open Cup tie with the Catalans in desperate need of a second goal.
Xavi Hernández made them team very attacking in the final minutes to find a second goal, but they nearly conceded a very late equalizer when Marc-André ter Stegen gave the ball away and had to make a fantastic save to correct his own mistake. The dying moments were tense as Sociedad sent everyone forward looking to send the game to extra-time, and Ter Stegen had to make one more great stop to keep the clean sheet and secure the win.
The final whistle came to end a tense, physical Cup tie between two teams that were equal on the night and Sociedad proved just how difficult to beat they are. Barça once again didn’t show killer instinct and made the game harder than it should have been, but a win is all that matters in knockout competition. Semi-finals, here we come!
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Christensen (Alonso 90+1’), Balde (Raphinha 77’); Pedri (Kessie 77’), Busquets, De Jong; Dembélé (Fati 84’), Lewandowski, Gavi
Goals: Dembélé (52’)
Real Sociedad: Remiro; Elustondo, Zubeldia, Le Normand, Rico (Muñoz 46’); Méndez, Zubimendi, Marín (Olasagasti 78’); Kubo (Navarro 78’); Sorloth (Fernández 87’), Oyarzabal (Barrenetxea 46’)
Red Card: Méndez (40’)