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There were scary moments for the first hour. And that was despite taking the lead after just 44 seconds. But it all came good in the end, and FC Barcelona ended up earning their first victory of the 2022/23 league season at a canter.
Real Sociedad quickly cancelled out Barça's early lead, and probably looked the more likely side to score again before new verve, to a large extent inspired by the introduction of Ansu Fati to the proceedings, saw Barça score three goals in quick succession to put the game to bed.
In so doing, they completed a run of three consecutive victories in San Sebastian.
34 years young
The opening goal was Robert Lewandowski’s first competitive one for FC Barcelona. Pedri opened up a rapid counter attack, Alejandro Balde powered through acres of space and picked out the Polish striker in the killer zone. The latter tucked the ball where it needed to be.
The birthday-boy’s naturally composed finish made him the second oldest player to score his maiden goal for Barça. Only Hilario, in the 1939-40 season, was older.
That initial joy was sadly brief. Just five minutes later, Alexander Isak robbed Frenkie de Jong in midfield, and then rode Eric Garcia’s sliding tackle as he lobbed Ter Stegen to level the scoring.
In an entertaining, physical game, both sides had chances to get ahead before half-time. It was Real who came closest when David Silva looked to have scored. Ter Stegen produced a simply stunning reflex save to keep that one out, having also denied a fine chance for Take earlier on.
There was a worryingly long period of Real pressure after the break too, which included a Brais Méndez free kick ending up in the net. There was a big let-off for Barça when that one was scrubbed for offside.
What an improvement!
Barça needed to find something. And on came Ansu Fati to provide it. Moments after he’d been sent on, the youngster was brilliantly back-heeling to the advancing Ousmane Dembélé, and the Frenchman blasted home from an angle.
Until now, Real had looked in control of the game. Not any more. Moments after re-taking the lead, Barça doubled it, and it was thanks to another Ansu assist.
A trademark Barça passing move was culminated by the ball being handed on a plate to Lewandowski. The star summer signing rarely lets opportunities like that go to waste. This one was no exception. His second goal of the night and suddenly Barça were in a comfortable 3-1 lead.
And that wasn’t the end of it from Ansu Fati. There was a mixture of brilliance and fortune in the way Lewandowski got the ball to him, but once he had it, the 19-year-old made no mistake. Game, set and match…
There may have been questions to ask of Barça’s performance in the earlier part of this encounter, but the answers flowed thick and fast towards the end. With an almighty click, all the parts of the machine seemed to fit snugly into place. If they can carry on playing football like that, Barça are going to be very hard to stop this season!
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