BARCELONA TWO STEPS AWAY FROM TITLE

A second half score from Jordi Alba was enough to nudge Barcelona past a tough Real Sociedad side on Saturday night at the Camp Nou in Barcelona.

Clement Lenglet stunned the home supporters by scoring his first league goal of the season just moments before half-time, only for Real Sociedad to answer through Juanmi. However, the visitors’ celebration did not even last two minutes, as Alba tallied the match-winner to put Barcelona two wins away from the league title.

After heavily rotating his squad last week at Huesca, manager Ernesto Valverde only made a few notable changes, with Ousmane Dembele coming in for Philippe Coutinho, while Arturo Vidal filled in for Sergio Busquets in midfield.

The first real chance of the contest didn’t come into midway through the first half when a Lionel Messi free-kick softly curled a foot over the crossbar after Vidal had been taken down yards outside the area.

La Real were going toe-to-toe with the home side though and should have broken the deadlock later on in the half when Ruben Pardo found Juanmi but his effort was blocked by Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Willian Jose was there to pounce on the rebound, only to miss over the crossbar.

There was a forest of Real Sociedad shirts around Messi anytime he had the ball, but even then, the playmaking of the Argentine almost ended with a Luis Suarez goal shortly before half-time.

Just when La Real thought they were going into the dressing room with the score still at 0-0, an unlikely goal-scorer would surface in the form of Lenglet. The French centre-back beat a pair of defenders to an Ivan Rakitic corner kick and whipped a header past Rulli and into goal for a 1-0 lead.

The Basque side would respond nicely to start the second stanza and kept Ter Stegen busy, first on a deflected Pardo shot that required a save and then a mix-up with Jordi Alba that Willian Jose could not capitalise on.

But they would keep prodding and poking and their efforts paid off handsomely when a surgical pass from Mikel Merino found the running Juanmi, who poked in a shot past Ter Stegen to pull Real Sociedad level 1-1.
La Real’s joy only lasted about 90 seconds, as Messi slipped in a pass to Alba on the left and the full-back did the rest of the job, cutting to his right and firing in past Rulli for a 2-1 advantage.

Things took an interesting turn when Dembele was substituted off for Coutinho, who was greeted by whistles from the Camp Nou faithful, a clear response to the fingers-in-the-ears gesture made in midweek by the Brazilian after scoring against Manchester United.

More importantly for Barcelona, though, was getting a third goal to kill off the match, and Ivan Rakitic and Vidal each had opportunities to do so but could not find the target.

In the end, Barcelona did not need the extra goal, as they calmly finished things out to pocket a hard-earned three points and move themselves closer to a league title.

Culled from Marca

Categories: SPORTS

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