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Lionel Messi / FOTO: FCB

Once again Barça have struggled in a match played immediately after an international break. The starting line-up raised a few eyebrows, with Busquets and Fontàs as the centre backs and Leo Messi among the players on the bench. Pep Guardiola also switched back to a traditional 4-3-3. Everything was going to plan when, in the 9th and 11th minutes, Barça had already put the ball in Bravo's net twice. But despite dominating the possession, there were no further goals and Real Sociedad salvaged a point with two back-to-back goals shortly after the restart.

Early lead

Barça looked a little unsteady early on, but soon found the way to beat Phillipe Montanier's strategy – getting behind the Real defensive line, which was taking risks by pushing so far forward. That is how both of the visitors' goals were scored, the first when Cesc provided a delightful pass to Alexis who then found Xavi, who tapped the ball home. The game had barely resumed before Cesc was in action again, this time supplying Pedro, whose shot was parried away by the keeper, and the former Arsenal man was there to convert the rebound.

Alexis injured

The defending champions could afford to relax now that they had secured a two-goal cushion, and concentrated instead on holding onto possession, frustrating Real as they patiently waited the chance to add to their tally. The game was totally in Barça's control, who played serious but effective football, and the only sour note of an excellent first half display was the loss of Alexis Sánchez to injury on the half hour. His place was taken by Villa.

Real pull back

Few predicted anything other than more of the same in the second half. Agirretxe did provide a warning when a 57th minute effort narrowly skimmed wide of the post, but worse was to come moments later when the same player pulled a goal back for the Basque side with a tremendous header. Just two minutes later Agirretxe was at it again, this time intercepting a careless back-pass by Villa and chipping the ball over Valdés. Busquets turned the ball onto the crossbar, but Griezman pounced on the rebound to score the equaliser. Guardiola immediately responded by sending on Messi and Iniesta and opting for a 3-4-3 system for the rest of the game.

Barça now found themselves desperately needing a third goal, and upped the ante with a far more aggressive and ambitious approach. Villa, Pedro and Messi all had chances, but the home side had grown enormously in confidence, and buoyed by a vociferous Anoeta managed to hang on to come out of this game with an unexpected point.

ELS GOLS

0-1 Xavi (min 9)
0-2 Cesc (min 11)
1-2 Agirretxe (min 59)
2-2 Griezman (min 61)


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