Lionel Messi and Pedro sent the Catalan Giants off to a great start at Anoeta Stadium, putting them up 2-0 for most of the 1st half. As of then, it looked as though Barcelona’s 19th La Liga victory of the season was within arms-reach. Real Sociedad needed a miracle to get back in the game, set aside win it all.
But unfortunately for Barcelona, that is exactly what had happened.
A red card for Gerard Pique let Sociedad fight back though, and with goals from Gonzalo Castro, Javier Mascherano (own goal), and Imanol Agirretxe, the squad secured the jackpot.
But the jackpot was much more than a mere 3 points. It was a win against an undefeated side that has a total of 21 La Liga and 4 Champions League titles, and if that’s not a feat worthy of praise, I don’t know what is!
The surprising part was that Barcelona had hugely dominant possession of the ball, a whopping 68% of it! Their pass accuracy was 89%, compared to Sociedad’s 74%, but all other statistics had gone in the opposition’s favor.
Sociedad made nearly double the number of shots during the match. 6 of those 14 shots were on target, while only 3 of Barca’s 8 had any chance at finding the back of the net.
Barca only made one change to their starting lineup from last week’s Copa del Rey draw against Malaga, putting in captain Carles Puyol for Javier Mascherano (who still managed to score an own goal). Tito Vilanova put only the strongest men on the pitch to amend their weak performance at home against Malaga, but they still fell short of Sociedad.
The 1st half was surprisingly all Barcelona’s, and getting into rhythm quickly, they look as though they were unstoppable. The squad made many meaningful attacks early on, but few actually tested the defenses. Messi had a one-on-one moment with Sociedad goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, and though it looked like it was an easy shot to make, it went completely wide, something very unlike the Argentine legend.
Just a minute later, Messi had another chance, but the keeper cleared it. Unfortunately for them, it landed at Iniesta’s feet, who found Messi once again with an assist and slotted the ball past Bravo and into the goal on the 7th minute.
On the 25th minute, Pedro produced another series of attacks against Sociedad. Dani Alves pressured the defense and set up Pedro, who scored his 4th La Liga goal of the season.
2 goals up, Barca continued to push for a 3rd. Messi surged toward the goal and beat Bravo in another 50-50, but his shot hit the post, hinting at what was yet to come.
Sociedad cut the lead to just 1 when they used Dani Alves’ mistake to their advantage. As a result, Chori Castro had complete control over the left side of the penalty area, and after an assist from Carlos Vela, he fired his side right back into the game.
Messi had another chance to score for Barca before the half, but it went wide, leaving Barca up 2-1 as the whistle was blown.
Vilanova made no changes to the squad as they entered the 2nd half, a mistake he would later regret. The team made unclean passes and allowed Sociedad and easy entry back into the game.
Pique, who picked up a yellow card in the first half, should have been more careful, but he stuck his leg out in front of Carlos Vela to get the red. This caused Vilanova to make his first change of the match, substituting Mascherano for Fabregas to maintain all 4 men on defense.
Just 3 minutes later, Castro made a powerful curled shot at the Barca goal. Although it would have probably been saved by Valdes, it took a deflection off of Mascherano, whose own goal tied it up at 2 just after the hour mark.
Both teams exchanged attacking plays after the equalizer, but Sociedad manager Philippe Montanier had one substitution left to make, which in fact won them the game. He put in Imanol Agirretxe for Carlos Vela, who evaded Barca’s poor defense on the 90th minute and scored the winner.
You can argue that their loss was largely Gerard Pique’s fault, who had left the squad one man down. It was a significant factor, but not the only thing that caused them to lose at Anoeta.
No matter how you bend it, the team did very poorly both offensively and defensively. All 11 men were on the pitch when Sociedad scored their first, so Pique was not to blame for that goal. They were unable to recover after that, though, and although I’m not diverting the attention from Pique, they shouldn’t have been crushed that badly even with only 10 men.
Now that they have recorded their first loss of the season, Barcelona stays in 1st on the La Liga table with 55 points. Both Madrid teams are still fairly far behind (but haven’t played their 20th games yet), Atletico in 2nd with 44 points and Real in a close 3rd with only 37.
Meanwhile, Real Sociedad stay in 9th place with 29 points. They are just 3 points away from 5th placed Malaga, meaning that they can rise to that position fairly quickly if they are to have a more successful second half of the season.