FC Barcelona are through to the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey after winning by a single goal against a stubborn Real Sociedad side that strangely only got stronger after having a man sent off late in the first half.
Ousmane Dembélé was the man of the moment, capping a stunning performance with the winner on 52 minutes.
But this was anything but an easy ride. Try as they could, Barça couldn’t get a second and the visitors squandered a series of chances that could have sent the game into extra time.
But 1-0 it ended, and just one more game now stands between Barça and a place in the final in Seville.
Until Dembélé finally struck after 52 minutes, Barça had done absolutely everything but score a goal.
In fact, Frenkie de Jong had done so but that one was chalked off for offside.
The chances were flowing left, right and centre as the Catalans utterly dominated their Basque guests, and that was before Real Sociedad were reduced to ten men after VAR took a second look at Brais Mendez’s vicious late tackle on Sergio Busquets and suggested it was worthy of red.
Curiously, however, while Barça were constantly getting close but not close enough, it was Real who had come nearest to scoring in the first half when former La Masia resident Takefusa Kubo smashed his shot against Ter Stegen’s crossbar.
Dembélé had been causing headaches for the Real defence all evening, so it felt only right that he should be the man who finally got the home side into the lead that they so clearly merited.
But it was an odd one. The logical thing would have been to slot the ball to Lewandowski, but the Frenchman decided to have a pop himself and the gamble paid off brilliantly.
There was a standing ovation waiting for Dembélé when he was substituted late in the game. And rightly so. He was fantastic tonight.
No second goal
Barça have been there so many times before this season and it was happening again. A goal ahead, and looking very comfortable with it, but unable to put the game to bed with a second.
Gavi came nearest when his shot hit the crossbar, but despite being a man down, Real were refusing to drop their heads. There was always the danger that they could nick one back.
In fact, they had three very clear chances to do so. Alexander Sørloth managed to inexplicably miss an open goal, and their forwards could have done a lot better when a mix-up in the Barça defence gifted them an opportunity with just three minutes to go.
And practically on the buzzer, it took an inspirational save from Ter Stegen to keep Olasagasti’s heavy blast out.
So that’s the cup sorted for now. Next up on Saturday at 4.15pm CET is the short trip north for the derby with Girona.