Barcelona suffer Clasico hangover
Barcelona headed into the match after losing their unbeaten start to the season with a 2-1 defeat by Real Madrid last weekend in El Clasico.
Xavi’s side have had the best part of a week to get over the disappointing loss but looked completely hungover for most of the match in the Basque country.
Real Sociedad started strongly and really went for Barcelona, and if it hadn’t been for the heroics of Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal (once again) would surely have won.
The German made saves from Ander Barrenetxea, Mikel Oyarzabal and Take Kubo in the first half, while the visitors created zero chances and didn’t manage a shot on target.
There was more of the same in the second half until the latter stages when Gavi wasted a great chance to win it. Fortunately for Barca another chance came along and this time Araujo made no mistake.
92 - Ronald Araujo's goal against Real Sociedad at 91:58 is Barcelona's latest winning goal in @LaLigaEN since October 2022 (Robert Lewandowski v Valencia at 92:55).— OptaJose (@OptaJose) November 4, 2023
Xavi admitted his side’s performance was unacceptable after the game but then summed it up pretty succinctly.
“Sometimes football is unexplainable,” he said. “Last week, we deserved to win and didn’t; this week, we end up winning when maybe we did not deserve it. That’s football.”
Barcelona didn’t really deserve to win at all. But the victory is important and means they stay four points behind leaders Girona and one behind Madrid who play today.
Pedri finally returns but Gundogan makes the difference
Pedri made his long-awaited return to action after injury just before the hour mark. Xavi sent on Pedri and Ferran Torres with Barcelona toiling and his team in dire need of some attacking inspiration.
It didn’t take long to see exactly why Pedri’s been missed. The midfielder lacked a bit of match sharpness but still brought that tactical pause and the metronomic passing that Barca have lacked while he’s been sidelined.
He should really have had an assist too after spotting Gavi’s run and playing in his midfield mate, but the teenager’s effort was blocked by the goalkeeper.
Yet in the end it was Gundogan who supplied the invention for Barca’s winner. The Germany international played an inch-perfect ball through to Araujo for his fifth assist of the season.
Araujo answers Gundogan’s call
Gundogan had criticised his team-mates after El Clasico for a lack of emotion and anger, but there was plenty on show when Barca won it against La Real.
The visitors didn’t really deserve all three points but Araujo’s very late header ensured they took home the victory at the death.
There had been talk all week about Gundogan’s words but he shut up his critics by popping the ball on Araujo’s head in stoppage time.
The Uruguayan then finished with a smart header and looked absolutely distraught at seeing his effort disallowed. Yet VAR quickly put things right and Araujo led the celebrations as Barca players went wild.
This time was no doubting the passion and commitment from Barca’s players. It may not have been pretty, it may not have been convincing, but after last weekend’s disappointment this was a huge win.