Match Report / Real Sociedad 1-0 Barcelona

Matchday 32 – Real Sociedad 1-0 Barcelona – Match Report

Saturday 9th April 2016

27,895 Spectators

Barça had not won in San Sebastián since 2007, and last night that negative run continued as they fell to a 1-0 defeat in front of a passionate crowd that offered the home team fantastic support.  I was fortunate enough to to be among that crowd with my son Liam.

Luis Enrique selected Munir in attack to replace the suspended Luis Suarez and also gave Rafinha his first league start since he returned from injury.  But Barca’s chances of ending the long negative run in San Sebastian suffered a serious, and ultimately fatal blow after only 5 minutes when the home team took the lead. Mikel Oyarzabal scored the goal with a brilliant headed finish that matched the quality of the right wing cross delivered by captain Xabi Prieto.

Lionel Messi had an opportunity to equalise just two minutes later, but he volleyed over. Barca struggled to settle into the game and Real left back De la Bella could have extended Real’s lead if he had managed to connect better on the quarter hour.

Despite having 73% of the first half possession, Barca were far from their best. The Real midfield pressed them hard and were very busy disrupting their rhythm.  The forward movement from Barca was poor and they concentrated play in the centre of the pitch, probably due to the absence of the missing Luis Suarez.

This made them very one dimensional and contributed to the Real defence being able to resist them. Apart from a strike from Arda Turan, that was brilliantly intercepted by Real’s Argentinian keeper Gero Rulli, solid defending by the home team and unimaginative forward play from the visitors limited the Catalans to little more than speculative half-chances in the first 45 minutes.

Half time saw the introduction of Iniesta in place of the ineffectual Rafinha, but little changed as the Real defence held firm. The play began to be virtually compressed into Real’s half as Barca continued to search for an equaliser.  But they continued to lack invention and Real remained very solid with committed but controlled performances from their entire team.

Rulli was at his very best for the entire game. When he was called into action he was positive and decisive.  This performance was the basis for the entire defence to grow in confidence as they resisted the increasingly desperate Barca efforts to find an equaliser.

Just before the hour mark Jordi Alba joined the game in place of Arda Turan.  The pressure continued and Neymar sent a free kick just wide as the game moved into the final 30 minutes. Rakitic came on for Barca in the 71st minute but the home team still seemed to have answers no matter what the Catalans tried to throw their way.

Into the final twenty minutes, and Rulli continued to deny Messi, occasionally at point-blank range, and the same pair were involved again with five minutes left.  However the goalkeeper once again got the better of his international captain. Iniesta had one last try in injury time, but Rulli made one last save.

For the first time in the Luis Enrique era, Barca have gone three league games without a win, and the ‘curse’ of Anoeta remains alive and kicking.  At final whistle the Anoeta stadium celebrated another night to remember, another game for the history books, and I can proudly say «I was there!!

The match statistics showed: Possession 26/74% in favour of Barca, we managed 2 shots of which only 1 was on target.  We won 5 corners and received 1 yellow card (Illarramendi on 25 mins).

Match details:

Real Sociedad: Rulli, Elustondo (Zaldua, min.76), D. Reyes, Mikel, De la Bella, Illarra, Granero, Xabi Preito (cap), Oyarzabal (Héctor, min.88), Zurutuza (R. Pardo, min.80) and Carlos V.

FC Barcelona: Bravo, Dani Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Sergi Roberto (Rakitic, min.71), Sergio, Rafinha (Iniesta, min.46), Arda (Jordi Alba, min.53), Munir, Messi, Neymar

Goals: 1-0: Oyarzabal, min.5.

Referee: Iglesias Villanueva. Booked Illarra (Real Sociedad) and Arda, Mascherano and Piqué (Barcelona)

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