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Real Sociedad away has not been an easy fixture for FC Barcelona in recent years, and two points went begging on Saturday as a vibrant encounter ended two goals apiece, meaning Real Madrid could be coming into Wednesday’s Clásico with a two-point lead. But that depends on what they do on a tough trip to Valencia on Sunday.
In San Sebastian, the home side, currently poised for a Champions League place next season, have been playing some good football of late. They were more than a match for Barça today, having twice as many shots, enjoying more possession and even making more passes.
And so they probably deserved their early lead. Whether they deserved the penalty, given for Sergio Busquets’ tug on Diego Llorente, is another question. But Mikel Oyarzabal converted the spot kick confidently and some top defending by Gerard Piqué in particular can be thanked for the home side not adding to that lead.
It hadn’t been a vintage start from the league leaders, but they had cancelled out Real’s lead before the break. Luis Suárez supplied the pass and Antoine Griezmann the goal with a deftly chipped finish.
The Frenchman respectfully refused to celebrate. He spent almost a decade of his life at Real Sociedad, and a part of his heart will also be in San Sebastian.
Barça came from behind on their previous to visits to Anoeta, with Suárez goals involved each time. Was history was about to repeat itself?
A lovely pass from Busquets to Leo Messi, and the Argentinian laid the ball on a plate for the Uruguayan and Barça were 2-1 up.
Their stuttering start behind them, Barça were very much to their good selves. It looked like matters were back in their hands. But the home fans, and the home team, refused to deflate. Swedish striker Alexander Isak found himself unmarked where he really shouldn’t have been and was able to fire his side back level.
Barça continued to look the more dangerous side every time they went forward, but the dynamic of this game had switched back to that of the first half, and it was Real who were doing most of the attacking.
Barça fans worldwide were running out of fingernails to bite. Another goal for Real Sociedad was a very plausible reality.
Right at the end it looked like Barça had been thrown a lifeline. Piqué, probably Barça’s best player today, was brought to ground in the area in an incident not unlike the Real Sociedad penalty. But this time the match officials weren’t interested.
It was a frustrating end to a frustrating afternoon, and attention can now be turned one hundred per cent on the next challenge. It’s Clásico time!
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