Barcelona returned to second in the La Liga table as they overcame a stubborn Real Sociedad 1-0 at the Reale Arena.
An early strike from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was enough to get the Catalans over the line in a fiercely-contested match that saw the referee have to halt proceedings as an object was launched from the stands at Gerard Pique in the early moments of the second half.
In a game that was played at a furious tempo, one could argue that it was Imanol Alguacil’s hosts who had the better of the opportunities, with both their strikers, Alexander Isak and Alexander Sorloth both missing glorious opportunities that left Barcelona thanking their lucky stars.
It was the Gabonese international Aubameyang who had scored the decisive goal, nodding over the line after Ousmane Dembele had hit the post, but Sociedad had their chances.
Sorloth missed a guilt-edged, golden opportunity at the far post from close range that he won’t want to see again, and Marc-Andre ter Stegen produced a reflex save on 58 minutes to deny him as he raced onto Rafinha’s through pass.
Alexander Isak squandered a great chance in the first half, uncharacteristically firing wide of the far post as Ter Stegen rushed out to meet him, as the Swede demonstrated his lack of confidence in front of goal in a season that hasn’t quite been as fruitful as he would have liked.
Xavi’s side were composed, and as the hosts continued to knock on the door in search of that elusive equaliser, the experienced heads of the Blaugrana stood firm to grind out an important three points in their pursuit of Champions League football.
TALKING POINT – PROFLIGACY A PERTINENT PROBLEM
Sociedad had their chances, and had they kept their composure in front of goal, they could well have won this game and made up ground on the top four. Instead, Isak and Sorloth missed great opportunities, with ter Stegen also having a blinding second half, pulling off decent saves to deny the hosts what would have been a vital three points.
San Sebastian didn’t give up, but Barca’s experience told. They may have struggled with knocks throughout the game, the visitors, but they were crafty when they went down requiring attention, and they did so when Sociedad really could have done with maintaining their momentum. It ultimately was not enough for the dogged hosts, who gave it everything as they pressed and pressed in search of a leveller, but it wasn’t to be, as Xavi and Barca march on towards the promised land of Europe’s elite.
Sociedad: Remiro 6, Zaldua 6, Zubeldia 6, Le Normand 7, Rico 6, Januzaj 7, Zubimendi 5, Merino 7, Rafinha 6, Isak 6, Sorloth 6, Gorosabel 6, Guridi 6, Portu 6, Guevara 6.
Barca: ter Stegen 8, Alves 6, Araujo 7, Pique 6, Alba 6, Gavi 7, Busquets 7, de Jong 8*, Torres 6, Aubameyang 7, Dembele 7, Garcia 6, Dest 6, Lenglet 6, L. de Jong 6.
MAN OF THE MATCH – FRENKIE DE JONG, BARCELONA
A complete performance from a Dutchman that continues to dazzle.
A constant thorn in the side of Sociedad, the former Ajax playmaker was silky and agile in possession, he worked hard covering the half-spaces he left in behind when he roamed forwards, and he was neat and cute in his delivery and execution of pass, keeping Barca ticking over even in times of heightened pressure.
A work of art.
11′: GOALLLL!!! Barca take the lead! Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continues his purple patch in front of goal, nodding into an unguarded net after Torres’ knockdown. Dembele hit the post in the interim, but the Gabonese was on hand to make sure at the second attempt. It’s their first real opening, and they’ve gone ahead.
29′: CLOSE! Beautiful play from de Jong as he shows his agility and dynamism to cut in onto his right foot, and his side footed effort is just wide of the far stick.
44′: SO CLOSE! Sorloth does really well to find his strike partner, but Isak uncharacteristically strikes wide of the post! Huge chance.
48′ CLOSE! What a chance for Sorloth again, as he misses a sitter at the far post! after a delicious Januzaj cross.
58′: GREAT SAVE! Sociedad are really knocking on the door here as Sorloth races through, and ter Stegen shows off his reflexes to deny the Norwegian