Real Sociedad 2 – Barcelona 2

In around 2 hours time we should find ourselves 2 points behind Real Madrid after only managing a 2-2 draw at the Anoeta early this evening.  Nic worried the international break (FIFA virus) may have its affect, and I think his concerns were realized.  However, I want to be super clear in the fact it is no excuse and Real Sociedad absolutely deserved their point today.  It was a game of two halves, and my word did Real put in a serious 2nd half.

Pep put out a completely new looking team giving many of the key internationals a rest after the FIFA break, but likely also with an eye on Milan Tuesday night.  Fontás got a start tonight with Busquets in the defense, with Alves and Adriano on their respective wings.  Keita started in the holding role with Thiago and Xavi around him, and we had a loose front 3 of Alexis, Pedro, and Cesc.

The game started well enough with us breaking through in the 10th minute with Xavi.  Cesc played it over the top of the defense to the onrushing Alexis who did great to take it down and quickly play it across the box to an open Xavi for an easy finish.  Then just a minute later it was 2-0 with Cesc scoring his 3rd goal in just 4 games.  Real were struggling with our balls over the top and this time Cesc peeled off on the left, received the pinpoint pass from Xavi, took it down and played it right to Pedro.  Pedro then put in a miserable attempt to score, passing it right into Bravo’s chest, but thankfully Cesc was hungry to chase the rebound and he slid in to put it into the net.  That was 2-0 and we were cruising.

The rest of the half was all us in terms of possession, though not too many clear cut chances.  We were however easily breaking through the defense with balls over the top.  In the 38th minute Alexis got injured after the trailing leg of a defender wrapped around his leg after a clearance.  The news is that it’s a hamstring tear and he will sit out for 6 to 8 weeks.  The half ended with Real’s only chance that was a pretty weak Xabi Prieto attempt on goal.  But that chance was a sign of things to come.

Real came out the blocks blazing and created a great chance just 2 minutes in.  The eventual man of the match in my opinion Agirretxe showed his strength and balance to shield off Alves and Busquets and then whip a good shot just wide of Valdes’s post.

They deservedly got their first goal in the 59th minute thanks to the exciting Agirretxe, who has 3 goals in 2 games this year.  Some lazy defending from Adriano allowed Xabi Prieto to easily put in a cross and the big Basque number 9 rose up, comfortably muscled Busquets out the way, and headered it into the goal.

They were really fired up after this and then in barely 60 seconds later we conceded the 2 thanks to a ridiculous lapse of concentration from Villa.  He blindly just smashed a back pass and there was absolutely nobody there to receive it.  Agirretxe was clear on goal, rounded Victor, and then put a shot in destined for goal.  Busquets then tried to disguise his blatant handball to block the goal, which deflected the ball onto the bar, but it fell down to Griezman who put it into the empty net.  Now I’d say we came out of this situation pretty lucky.  The ref was well within his right to send Busquets off and we can feel very fortunate he didn’t deflect it over the bar cause then it was an easy decision of red card and penalty.

We were seriously nowhere in these first 15 minute, and basically the rest of the game.  The team looked exhausted and the Real players were just much hungrier and motivated.  They hustled us on the ball, giving our players no time to settle into our game.  Our tactics also looked miserable.  That front 3 had no structure at all and Villa was doing nothing on the left.  The gap between the mid and forwards was also far too large and whenever we did get the ball up, there was minimal support.

So at 2-2 we reacted by bringing on Messi for Thiago.  In the 71st minute was the only legit chance we created to win the game, but Pedro blasted the ball over the bar after Alves had done brilliantly to recover a ball that looked destined to be shielded out of bounds.  Pedro had a stinker tonight.

However he did do one thing well in the 75th minute when we showed quick feet to get past a few defenders, then slide it through to the onrushing Messi.  The angle was very tight and with Bravo completely closing down the angle, Messi could only shot it right into the goalie.  And that was our last chance of the 2nd half with 15 minutes left.  Even the introduction of Iniesta, who was super for Spain during the past week, didn’t yield fruit.

We very nearly lost it as well with 2 super chances from Real in the 89th and 90th minutes.  Alves had to make a brave diving header to stop a lovely cross from Vela and then from that corner a Real header bound for goal luckily hit one of our defenders.

The fact is Real Sociedad are a tough team, at home especially, and we simply were not going to win 38 from 38.  The fans are very passionate and the atmosphere was hostile throughout.  Credit also to new manager Montanier for what must have been a fantastic half time speech to create that reaction and belief.  Real were the only team to beat us on their home pitch last year, at this ground, and tonight nearly did so again.  I know there were internationals, but only 1 month into the season should we really be so tired?  The fact is we look jaded and the high-energy play from our opponents had us rattled throughout the 2nd half, most clearly shown with that bizarre moment when Valdes wasn’t looking at a back pass that so nearly trickled into his net.  The commentators were loving the fact we keep using a mid in defense, but I don’t think that was the issue tonight.  Sure Busquets was very weak in the header for the 1st, and a big Pique or brave Puyol could have stopped that, but neither he nor Fontàs could do anything about the brain fart from Villa.  The chances wasted in the 1st half and inability to control the games in the 2nd half were much more to blame.  Keita had a shocking 2nd half, but you can add many names to the poor performers list, mainly Adriano, Villa, and Pedro.  Even the legend Xavi tonight looked extremely uncomfortable.

It was an annoying game to lose after we were killing them in that first half.  I’m not concerned or anything, we have started slow the last few years and like I said this isn’t an easy fixture.  However I will say Villa is getting on my nerves a bit, as well as the fact we so stubbornly play him on the left all the time.  He was totally useless tonight and looked very fatigued.  Alexis cannot be fairly judged just yet, but he needs to show more goal threat for me.

It really is early days and no need to start blaming anyone and doubting anything.  This team has proven their quality and ability so let’s give them some time to get things right.  I would however really like to see Puyol back in the defense, and I was quite sad not to see him in tonight, though I can understand why.  I do however feel Abidal could have helped the defense.

We have AC Milan Tuesday night, and traditionally, these sorts of results have been followed with a reaction.  Pep was clearly not pleased tonight so the players are going to have a tough few days in training I suspect.

0 – 1, Xavi (9th), 0 -2, Cesc (11th), 1-2, Agirretxe (57th), 2-2,  Griezmann (59th)

Valdes – 6.5, Alves – 7, Busquets – 6, Fontas – 6 (Iniesta – 6), Adriano, 5.5, Keita – 4.5, Cesc – 7, Xavi – 6, Thiago – 6 (Messi – 6.5), Alexis – 6.5 (Villa – 4), Pedro – 5.5

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11 Responses to Real Sociedad 2 – Barcelona 2

  1. BarcaCentralDiatus says:

    Not so fast Nic…Getafe is going to win this game. I am in BCN !tw (hotel diagonal zero) until Tuesday for business…if you can grab a beer.

  2. blaugranaboy says:

    lol. its my post diatus. but yeah im watching getafe fight too, but im not overly optimistic. contrao just missed a sitter after a sick bicycle from CR. enjoy ur beer fellas!

  3. layibiyi says:

    referee just messed the game up with that penalty. The foul definitely occured outside the box but Mr. ‘porque’ mourinho would never see that as always. Getafe always lose like 4-2 against madrid despite playing better a couple of times

    the barca game was a very frustrating game. its very hard to pinpoint what went wrong with some of the players but complacency is definitely one of the reasons. I think they were already expecting an easy game after the first 2 goals and they were all just thinking about breaking the next offside trap. Well, all these kind of games are always good. Barca’s seasons take a general shape as you have noticed. We usually get a match early in the season that reminds us that nobody is perfect no match would be easy despite what you did last season. Then we get another reminder early in february that reminds us that we should not still think we are perfect and get easy matches despite what we did the past few months. So I wouldnt mind another season shaped like that or better provided we play good football and win trophies

    i also want to note that despite the fact that people say fabregas brings more directness to our game, we should note that direct games mean more chances for the other team compared to posession games. So if we go to anoeta looking to play a direct game, we should have the defenders for such a game (at least one of mascherano, abidal, pique and puyol) as opposed to the possession oriented defenders we used today.

  4. barcacentralnic says:

    I think that definitely has to go down to complacency. Before the game I admit i had no problem with the rotations and it all seemed to make sense after 15 minutes. However, as the game went on we looked happy to sit on the lead and then we found it impossible to move back up a gear when Real equalized. i don’t like to criticise Pep but given that Piqué was injured and Puyol not 100% yet, was it wise to rest both Mascherano and Abidal. I think Busquets and Fontás can both represent us in defence but just not as a pairing please..

  5. barcacentralomer says:

    The injury to Alexis is not something that any of us were looking forward to and while the 2 points dropped were a setback, Alexis missing for up to 8 weeks is the bigger blow. The fact that David Villa seems to be looking rather rusty isn’t any consolation either. But I guess Pep and Co. will have a plan to sort out the LW/LF issue in the absence of Sanchez.

    I am not in any position to be criticising Pep but IMO ‘experimentation’ time at least in La Liga is over. Real are going to push us all the way as they have in the past few seasons and considering we’re already 2 points behind, a few more slip ups might cost us in the end. Pep has to decide what his best XI are and pick them to grab our 3 points every week. Once the victory is assured, then maybe we can try out both Busquets and Fontas as a CB pair or any other combo/formation that Pep wants to.

  6. FCB-Parbo says:

    Pep is sometimes so stubborn. While RM are always fielding their best eleven, regardless if it’s against a strong or less team, Pep is always experimenting with players. You can only do that when the first XI has killed the match. Sorry, but Villa was crap and Pedro must pick up his rythem asap. In fact, the team has performed below their usual standard. Oh Alexis, why now!!! A very dissapointing match, but I still love the boys.

    Visca Barca!!!

  7. blaugranaboy says:

    i have to completely disagree with the last two comments guys. one of the things that differentiates pep so much, in particular from real madrid and senor “llorinho” is that he experiments and in particular gives youth a chance. sure here and there it bites him in the bum, but the long term results are being seen my you and i each and every year, those being confident, assured, wordclass masia products. if we were real madrid and just used the big time stars each week, who knows where some of our boys would be. we would have our own matas and negredos. my word, if there is one thing jose doesnt know how to do, its incorporate and build up youngsters. he coudlnt care one bit about it and thats why he will and should never be at the camp nou. you guys can thank cruyff and laporta for that

    plus u cant play the top 11 each week, u have to rest and rotate somewhat. thankfully our bench now is almost as good so when we do it shouldnt hurt.

    the defeat doesnt go down to pep here, he cant help in players arent clinical with chances and villa decides to split the his own defense. it seems we are inclined to drop early points in “easier” games, and seriously i think he helps the team refocus and re-energize. it hurts them and that makes them dangerous. madrid wont win 38 from 38 and will drop points.

    we need some time to warm up. playing the football we do at such a high level takes more fitness and more hours in training.

  8. FCB-Parbo says:

    Hey BBoy, I agree with you and I didn’t say he mustn’t sent youngsters in. In fact, knowing Pep he is the man who dares to give the youth a chance. And that’s what I/we love about him. What I meant was, do it in a way that the match is sealed and that the young ones are coming in as subs with more selfconfidence. That would help a lot. But hey, in Pep we trust don’t we all!

  9. layibiyi says:

    Are you guys kidding? Pep is stubborn? this must be the biggest joke of the century…Even if we play our first 11 every time, there is no way we can still win 38 from 38. A lot of our first team players let us down in the game. come on, you guys have been watching over the last few years, these kind of results are good for us.

  10. barcacentralomer says:

    @Bboy: I get what you mean by throwing in youngsters and letting them show what they’re made of. I support this strategy and this is one of the most impressive features of Pep’s short but spectacular coaching career. Again I want to stress that I’m in no capacity to evaluate his tactics but I just wonder if we might be overdoing the ‘experimentation’. Busquets’s best position is still CDM and while he has performed very well at CB, to pair him up with Fontas who’s just been promoted to the bench last season might have been pushing it too far.

    I’m all for a Plan B [one of my reservations during Pep’s first season] but I don’t understand why we couldn’t have tried out these diff positions,players and formations more frequently in the pre-season matches.

    To be fair to Moaninho [which he probably doesn’t deserve but then we’re not like him], after Porto, he’s never been given the time that Pep, Alex and Wenger have been given to build great clubs. He was brought in at Chelsea to win the league and CL. He succeeded in winning back to back league titles in his first two seasons and which even Wenger has yet to accomplish but failed in the CL quest perhaps unluckily in the 2004-05 and 06-07 seasons. Chelski’s sugar daddy booted him at the start of his fourth season after he had finished second to Alex in the preceding season. He won it all in his second season with an aging Inter side even if he got a volcano to help him in the CL. At Real his immediate task is not to build a great team for the future but to displace one of the greatest club sides of all time so I don’t think he can afford to give the youth team players a chance over here as well. But thats his problem and for our sake lets hope he doesn’t succeed at Real both in beating us and in building a great team.

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