It was never going to be easy for Barcelona against Real Sociedad. Up against one of Spain’s most in-form teams, Xavi Hernandez’s side were always required to step up and dish out a clinical performance.
Yet, that was far from what happened. The Catalans were under pressure for most of, if not the entire game, and produced a display to forget. They never got onto the front foot and ended up chasing after the ball more often than not.
In the end, as unfair as it is, Ronald Araujo put the team ahead with two minutes remaining on the clock. The goal was made possible only through Ilkay Gundogan’s phenomenal lobbed pass over the top which the Uruguayan headed to perfection.
There were many headline-worthy events on the night, from the late winner to Pedri’s return to football, and from Real Sociedad’s free-flowing attack to Xavi’s substitutions.
Barça Universal brings you three talking points from Real Sociedad 0-1 Barcelona.
Real Sociedad all the way
If Barcelona were the better team, a more synchronised unit and the ones with more initiative against Real Madrid last weekend, the team that stepped onto the field last night was a shadow of the same.
The Blaugranas did not look close to the form they displayed a week ago. The aetiology of the same may be multifold, from the psychological impact of last weekend’s fixture to the altered formation that Xavi deployed. Yet, the fact remains that they were outclassed.
Real Sociedad were the better side in San Sebastián by leaps and bounds last night, so much so that a defeat for the Catalans appeared written in stone. They were inspired in attack, rock-solid in defence and created chances for fun.
The Basque outfit completed the game with 51% possession, 13 shots, six of which were on target, two big chances missed and nine shots inside the box. Ander Barrenetxea, Takefusa Kubo and Mikel Merino, in particular, tormented the Barça defence.
Ter Stegen makes amends
Real Sociedad were the better team last night and deserved to walk away either three points added to their tally. Yet, if there was one reason they did not do so, it was Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
The German shot-stopper dished out a sensational performance between the sticks, single-handedly denying the Basque side any advantage on the scoreboard.
Ter Stegen was far from his best last weekend in El Clasico, with many pointing out that he should have done better to deny Jude Bellingham’s equaliser. Yesterday’s performance, to some capacity, made amends.
Barrenetxea, Kubo, Merino and co. toyed with Barcelona’s defence on multiple occasions, creating realistic and dangerous goalscoring chances. The Catalans’ goalkeeper, in turn, stepped up and made six saves to deny them the impetus.
He first denied Mikel Oyarzabal as early as the fourth minute before being called into action by Kubo just ten minutes later. Early in the second half, he was tested by Brais Mendez before making an excellent diving save to deny Barrenetxea.
Notably, five saves came from inside the box and the goalkeeper prevented a stunning 2.17 goals on the night.
Three welcome points
The defeat to Real Madrid last weekend set Barcelona on the back foot in the league title race. The gap between Los Blancos and the Blaugrana widened to four points, giving Carlo Ancelotti’s side a sizable advantage.
A second consecutive defeat last night would have broken the team’s confidence to a greater extent. Potentially seven points behind the leaders, it would have been an uphill battle for Xavi’s men.
Barcelona indeed did not deserve the win at San Sebastian. They were not half as good as La Real and did not even make a strong enough case to warrant a draw.
Yet, football is a cruel game. One where a moment of individual brilliance can undo an opposition’s ninety minutes of dominance. Last week, Barcelona fell prey to the same and this time around, they are at the other end.
Xavi will take the three points with extended arms, irrespective of how they arrive. There is a lot to work on, but it will be easier to address the issues while alive in the title race.