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FC Barcelona have ground out a workmanlike victory at the Reale Arena, winning a tough, physical battle in which the only goal was an Aubameyang header after eleven minutes.
From there on, much of the remainder of the game was about keeping at bay an insistent Real Sociedad, themselves battling hard to keep their fading Champions League aspirations alive.
While often looking like they were feeling the strain of a packed fixture list, the Catalans brilliantly held on for three points that mean they stay second in the league. With other results going their way this week as well, they are now looking better positioned than ever for a place in the UCL next season.
Not forgetting, too, that second place in La Liga means a place in next season's Spanish Super Cup.
Auba heads home
Barça led at half time, and very deservedly so after creating the vast majority of the chances. Aubameyang had just had one of those before he headed in (yes, yet another Barça header!) after just 11 minutes.
The goal came straight after Dembélé had tapped the ball onto the post. Barça then exploited the confusion in the Real defence to get it back to Ferran Torres, who deftly lobbed it onto the Gabonese striker’s head at the far post.
That goal brought the end to Real Sociedad’s record-equalling run of seven league games at home without conceding a goal. This is not an easy place to score...
The home side looked totally outclassed for the next half hour or so. But Barça failed to capitalise and as the game progressed the Basques started to look increasingly more dangerous.
Indeed, the Scandinavian duo of Alexanders, Isak and Sørloth, really should have buried one or two of the very clear chances that fell their way. Instead Barça, despite no longer being in control of the proceedings, and having lost Ronald Araujo to a knee injury, remained a goal to the good.
Credit also had to go Ter Stegen, who was doing another marvellous job between the Barça sticks.
Three huge points
We may have often looked closer to 1-1 than 2-0, and Barça were gritting their teeth and delivering a defensive master-class, but they were by no means sitting back. Gavi in particular will feel he should have done better when he misfired a clear shot on goal.
Barça were unable to score any more, but the most important thing is that Real didn’t either and the team can head back to Catalonia knowing that they have just collected three very hard-earned points indeed.
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