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Barça had not won at Real Sociedad since 2007, and on Saturday night that negative run continued as they crashed to 1-0 defeat at Anoeta. And after Atlético Madrid won at Espanyol earlier on in the day, the result means that the difference between the top two has been slashed to three points with six games to go.
Luis Enrique opted to field Munir in attack as a replacement for the suspended Suárez and also handed Rafinha his first Liga start since recovering from injury.
But the chances of ending the negative run in San Sebastian took a serious knock early on when the Basques took the lead after just five minutes. Oyarzabal got the goal with a headed finish that was as brilliant as the cross from Xabi Prieto that set it up.
Messi had a chance to level affairs just two minutes later when he volleyed over, but Barça would struggle to settle into the game and De la Bella could have added further punishment had he managed to connect better on the quarter hour.
Despite having 73% of the first half possession, this was not Barça at their best. Other than an Arda Turan strike that was brilliantly intercepted by Real’s young Argentinian keeper Rulli, solid defending from the home side limited the Catalans to little more than speculative half-chances in the first 45 minutes.
The second half saw almost of the play deep in Real’s half as Barça pushed and pushed for an equaliser. Messi let one chance go when he failed to realise that he was not offside, and Iniesta immediately made his presence felt after coming on for Rafinha when his left foot brought out further excellence in Rulli.
Jordi Alba joined the fray as the intense pressure continued, Neymar Jr sending a free kick inches wide as the game moved into its last 30 minutes, and then Ivan Rakitic came on for his 100th appearance in a Barça shirt, but the Basques still seemed to have answers no matter what Barça tried to throw their way,
Into the last twenty, and Rulli produced yet more magic to deny Messi at point-blank range, and the same pair were involved in an exchange five minutes from the end, with the goalkeeper once again getting the better of his compatriot.
Iniesta had one last try in injury time, and Rulli made one last save. This was not Barça’s day. For the first time in the Luis Enrique era, Barça have gone three league games without a win, and the ‘curse’ of Anoeta remains to be dispelled.
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