FC Barcelona 2 Real Sociedad 1

Barça beat Real Sociedad 2-1 tonight at a freezing Camp Nou to maintain the gap with Real Madrid at seven points. Goals from Cristian Tello and Leo Messi put us on the road to victory though we suffered a nervous finish to the game after Real substitute Carlos Vela pulled a goal back with fifteen minutes remaining. Sergio Busquets suffered a knee injury just a couple of minutes after coming on as substitute and was stretchered off however the first news suggest it is nothing serious.

In the press conference before the game Pep Guardiola defended his players physical condition but the starting XI suggested he wanted to add some new energy to the team. It was known that Xavi and Alexis had slight injuries, but Busquets, Piqué and Abidal joined them on the bench. Cristian Tello and Isaac Cuenca were in alongside Messi to give us real width in attack, while Johnathan dos Santos and Thiago Alcantara started in midfield with Cesc Fabregas which meant that our three midfielders and three forwards tonight are all youth products and none of them is older than 24-years-old. In all we had eight home grown starters despite the absence of Piqué, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta and Pedro.

News of Real Madrid’s narrow win at Getafe won’t have helped to warm the spectators waiting for the game on a freezing night, however, the game began at a brisk pace which promised a good game. Our first chance came when Cesc was trying to get the ball back to Messi, but before he could he was assisted by Markel who stabbed the ball back for Messi for a great chance but Real keeper Claudio Bravo was out quickly to save. Real hit back and Ifrán showed his speed to get away from Mascherano and shoot but Valdés was on fine form tonight and he made a splendid save.

Messi had been under scrutiny from his critics after going three games without a goal but as usual he was ready to bounce back. In the first half he worked three assists that might have given us a three goal lead at half time. The first was a sublimely weighted pass for Tello to show his electric pace getting away from Carlos Martinez, Bravo had to come for it but Tello was quickest, flipping the ball right footed past the advancing keeper for his first league goal. Messi threaded another through for Fabregas in a great position but Cesc’s stab flew just over. And just before half time Messi dribbled and bustled his way against four opponents and the ball broke nicely for Alves but there was a slight angle and Alves fired his shot wide of the far post.

It wasn’t just the chances created by Messi. Tello frightened Real every time he got the ball but the final pass was missing. Dos Santos and Thiago worked their socks off in midfield and were not afraid to try things out to create. Occasionally their inexperience led to us losing the ball where we shouldn’t but fortunately our opponents did not make the most of the ball and we often recovered possession very quickly. Cesc also worked hard but did not have his best night, the rumour is that he would have been rested tonight if it hadn’t been for all the injuries we have. Cuenca didn’t see a lot of the ball on the right but he set up one chance with a low cross to Thiago by the penalty spot but Thiago’s low hooked shot lacked power and Bravo got down to save comfortably.

Messi also had his chance to score, after one of those Messi moments that only Messi can do, after chasing a long ball from Cesc he kept the ball in play turned back inside to play a one-two with Thiago before getting in a low shot that Bravo did well to turn out for a corner. Another point of note from the first half was the lack of runs upfield from our full backs Alves and Adriano. Perhaps this was because we had enough width with Tello and Cuenca or perhaps it was because Guardiola felt our midfield needed more protection today.

The first half had been pretty positive though our failure to add to Tello’s goal left us more vulnerable. Five minutes into the second have Griezmann, who had switched from the left to centre forward, outmuscled Mascherano to get a clear chance, Valdés was again magnificent, blocking Griezmann’s drive. The danger was always there, even though Messi had further chances to score, once he dummied onto his right but his shot lacked power then three minutes later after Thiago’s long through ball Messi rounded the keeper but rather than trusting his right foot again to shoot he pulled the ball back onto his left allowing the defender the time to get back and intercept.

Alves was seen more in attack in the second half, in the 66th minute he galloped forward before setting up Cuenca with a chance, but Cuenca’s shot bounced out off the bar and when Tello pounced on the rebound the ball hit a defender and then Alves on the line on the way to the net. The goal was disallowed for Alves’s offside though he couldn’t do much to get out of the way. Alves made up for it a few minutes later sending a teasing cross to the far post that Messi was quick to chase after, again Bravo had to come for it and Messi took his chance to clip the ball back past the keeper for his 23rd liga goal of the season.

It should have been all over but it wasn’t. Alves gave a poor ball to Thiago and Griezmann stole the ball sending Vela free to beat the furious Valdés. We brought on Abidal and Busquets, but Busquets only lasted three minutes and Piqué had to come on in his place. The mood inside the ground was nernous and the whistles from some fans certainly don’t help in this respect. It is sure that the level dropped a bit at times in the second half but with young players on the field whistling is only going to make us more anxious. As it was there was very little danger in the final minutes though we ended with a couple of uncharacteristic hoofs up the field.

I never thought it was going to be easy tonight but in many ways I am happier after tonight’s game than I have been for a couple of weeks. The gamble for the youngsters paid off in a vibrant game. Yes, it wasn’t perfect but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the players who were not at their best played below par due to the strain of recent games. Messi had a better game and I’m sure we won’t have to wait long for the next hat-trick. Thiago rose to the occasion to demonstrate again that he will be Xavi’s successor, I particularly liked the Laudrup style chip pass with the outside of the boot on the run. Phenomenal. However, I think the man of the match for me has to be Victor Valdés. A shame he couldn’t keep the clean sheet but the stops from Ifran and Griezmann really saved us the three points tonight.

Barça: Valdés 8; Alves 6, Puyol 7 (Abidal m76, 7), Mascherano 5.5, Adriano 6; Dos Santos 6.5 (Busquets m76, — (Piqué m80, –)), Thiago 7.5, Fabregas 6; Cuenca 6.5, Messi 7.5, Tello 7.5.

Goals: m9 Tello 1-0, m72 Messi 2-0, m74 Vela 2-1.

Barça no yellow cards:

Attendance: 52,646

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5 Responses to FC Barcelona 2 Real Sociedad 1

  1. bc9jaCulé says:

    Saw your post on tB, Nic — and thanks for further indicating that Busi won’t be out for more than a week. Haven’t these injury demons have their fill on our team yet? Prayers, please.

    I must say I was truly impressed with the output of the youngsters that started the game last night, Tello especially. We could (in fact, should) have scored a lot more but most significantly, they secured the needed 3 points. Now Valencia’s next and I’m sure our boys are all charged up and spoiling for a commanding victory. Here’s to hoping the weather will be more favourable henceforth.

    Som–Hi Barça!!!!!

  2. Muhyideen (Nigeria) says:

    It was little difficult for Barca these days.But I believe that the difficulty is gong to get over very soon.Up Barca

  3. Fredegar says:

    It was a good game, entertaining, and credit to Sociedad who played well to their plan, and particularly to Griezmann who was a pain all along and Aranburu who was a monster in the midfield.
    I wonder if Pep was just forced to play all these youngsters or if maybe, just maybe, he might start to prioritise the cups over the championship. I know he won’t let La Liga go just as easily, but with the number of games we have to play and our growing injury list and needs of rest for some of our players, he might decide to keep his best 11 for the midweek games, starting with Valencia. Which would mean plenty of games for our youngsters, and they certainly need it. Puyol and Xavi weren’t born the fantastic players they are now, they took multiple seasons to rise to their best level. And with all their promises, some of the “masia graduates” will need to improve. Tello has incredible pace, very impressive, but he must learn to make better use of it. Dos Santos has great vision and passing qualities to match, but he will have to watch Busquets play again and again. And for all his talent, Cuenca was pretty quiet yesterday. Even Fabregas was far from comfortable in the midfield three and will have to adapt. Overall though, even if we suffered maybe a bit more than we should have, it was great to see all these players on the field, the fact that we can win games with so many first team players out or on the bench is amazing. I enjoyed to watch them play yesterday, but we were a Valdes from losing more ground on Madrid.

  4. Caleb says:

    A good amount of suffering but in the end three needed points were earned.

    Mash 5.5? I thought he was solid…I will grant that he let his defender get away from him a couple times and guess that’s why he gets a 5.5. He did have a ton of great tackles, too. But if a couple glaring errors get you a 5.5 I don’t know how Messi gets a 7.5 with some of his terrible misses tonight, even if he did have two good moments.

    Nic, Messi did create the assist for Tello, but the other two you mention were really lucky — the one to Cesc took two deflections. For me Messi missed 4 or more chances he would usually finish. His goal was actually his most difficult chance of the night. There were times he could have had more assists to Tello but he tried to beat 3 defenders when Tello was all alone. I don’t mean to sound like mister negativity, but I don’t think Messi played well. I’m not convinced he’s getting close to his best form. I concerned about more than goals. Messi is good enough and gets enough chances that even if he is off he’ll get some goals. Doesn’t mean he’s playing well.

  5. layibiyi says:

    mascherano deserves at least a 8 in my opinion. worthy man on the match candidate in fact

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