Barcelona have climbed to third place and are once again four points behind the top of the La Liga table thanks to a miracle 1-0 victory away to Real Sociedad at Anoeta on Saturday night. Barça were thoroughly dominated in the first half and should have lost on the night, but kept finding a way to survive La Real’s pressure until Ronald Araujo scored a 92nd minute header to give them three giant points that they didn’t deserve but will take anyway.
The start of the game was utterly dominated by the home team, who could have scored at least once thanks to their intense high pressing that generated mistakes by Barça at the back and led to huge chances. Marc-André ter Stegen made three big saves and Mikel Merino missed an open header in the box, and Barça were very lucky not to be behind after the opening 15 minutes.
The visitors managed to weather the early storm and enjoy at least a little bit of the ball in the following 15 minutes and had a couple of positive attacking movements but never created a true chance, with a strike from outside the box by João Cancelo that went over the bar the only moment of near danger by the Catalans.
Sociedad were still by far the better team, however, and continued to bring a lot of threat with their quick passing and movement in the final third and a lot of dangerous crosses into the box that Ter Stegen and the Barça defense somehow found a way to keep out of the net.
The halftime whistle came to save the visitors, and Barça still had a clean sheet despite Sociedad thoroughly dominating and deserving at least one goal in the first half. Xavi Hernández and his troops had been badly outplayed, and desperately needed to regroup and find a way to perform much better to even have a chance in the final period.
Xavi didn’t make a halftime substitution but his team talk certainly had an impact as Barça came out with a more aggressive attitude and didn’t allow Sociedad to dominate them. The Blaugrana had more of the ball in the first 10 minutes and committed more bodies forward, and for the first time all game La Real was forced to defend deep inside their own half as Barça began to threaten.
Xavi went to the bench for the first time at the hour mark, with Ferran Torres and the returning Pedri coming on looking to add more creativity and pace to the attack. The changes had very little impact in Barça’s play so Xavi made two more alterations as Lamine Yamal and Raphinha came on to make the team even more offensive for the final 20 minutes.
The game lost a lot of quality as we reached the final 10 minutes as Sociedad began to look tired and Barça struggled to complete passes and create meaningful attacks, and it felt as though we were headed for an anticlimactic finish and a goalless draw.
But Barça finally looked like a cohesive attacking unit at the very end, and created a couple of massive chances to win it late. Gavi missed a huge one-on-one with goalkeeper Álex Remiro, and Ferran Torres failed to assist Lamine Yamal and fired well over the bar instead.
There was still time for one more chance, however, and it produced the winner: Ilkay Gündogan played a magical pass over the top and Ronald Araujo made a perfectly timed run into the box to head home the winner, which was initially ruled out for offside but was cleared by VAR to give Barça the lead at the death.
The final whistle came to give Barça three points they did not deserve, but got anyway thanks to some amazing goalkeeping by Ter Stegen and a moment of true individual brilliance by Gündogan. Barça didn’t deserve to lose El Clásico last week but lost at the death; they didn’t deserve to win this one but won at the death. That’s why football is so beautiful.
Real Sociedad: Remiro; Traoré (Elustondo 63’), Zubeldia, Le Normand, Muñoz; Méndez, Zubimendi, Merino; Kubo, Oyarzabal (Fernández 84’), Barrenetxea (Cho 79’)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Araujo, Kounde, Iñigo, Balde; Cancelo (Raphinha 69’), Gündogan, Gavi, Félix (Yamal 69’); Fermín (Ferran 57’), Lewandowski (Pedri 57’)
Goal: Araujo (90+2’)