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FC Barcelona got back to winning ways on Saturday evening, defeating Real Sociedad 3-2 in a hard-fought game at the Camp Nou.
The Basques have been enjoying a good season, knocking on the door of the European places, and it was easy to see why as Barça were forced to dig deep to hold on for the points.
It was the visitors who started brightest too. Oyarzabal’s low driven effort was heading in had it not been blocked by Gerard Piqué, and the youngster was denied soon after by Marc-André ter Stegen.
As ever, Messi was pulling the strings in the final third, and Barça’s first sniff on goal was from his succulent through ball which fed Jordi Alba but the full-back’s pass was just behind Luis Suárez.
The opener did not take too long to arrive however. Excellent work out on the left from Paco Alcácer to keep the ball in play allowed Suárez to set up Messi on the edge of the box who struck powerfully into the bottom corner for 1-0.
It was so very nearly 2-0 moments later as Suárez passed the ball across the face of the goal but Messi was unable to make sufficient contact.
Albeit a little less pretty than the first, the same two players combined for the second goal. Suárez won the ball back in the Sociedad area and though his effort was denied by the keeper, it fell kindly to Messi who bundled it in.
But the visitors, in just as scrappy fashion, got themselves back in the game when Ińigo Martinez’s shot went beneath Ter Stegen and onto Samuel Umtiti before finding the net (2-1).
The goals kept flowing in the first period. Messi was at the heart of it again as his well-measured layoff played Alcácer through who finished confidently with his left foot (3-1).
Again, however, the visitors responded on the stroke of half-time as Willian José’s lofted ball was cushioned in on the volley by Xabi Prieto (3-2).
The second half, in contrast to the first, was not rich in clear-cut chances but, nevertheless, suspense remained at a maximum with the visitors gradually growing more confident as the game progressed.
Had it been for a better touch from Willian José, the Brazilian would have been in on goal but his hesitance allowed Sergi Roberto to regain possession.
Sociedad continued to have the better of the second period with Barça unable to get back into their attacking rhythm. A quick free-kick from inside his own half from Illaramendi needed to be tipped over the bar from Ter Stegen, before Martínez headed wide from the resulting corner.
Arguably Barça’s best attacking moment of the second period came when Ivan Rakitic raced through the Sociedad midfield before side-footing a shot but it went comfortably into the hands of Geronimo Rulli.
There was tension right until the very last when Sociedad full-back Yuri Berchiche had a strike from the edge of the box but, thankfully for the hosts, it flew over the bar, before Suárez immediately after had a chance to kill the game one-on-one with the keeper but was denied.
It was far from a vintage home display from the Catalans, but the three points was the most important objective after two straight defeats and Luis Enrique’s men can now focus on the big task that lies ahead against Juventus on Wednesday.
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