In a thrilling, albeit far from perfect, performance, Barcelona managed to secure a 1-0 victory against Real Sociedad in San Sebastian. It was a night of struggle for the Catalan giants, who displayed one of their least impressive performances this season. Nevertheless, Araujo’s last-minute goal salvaged the win and allowed Barcelona to put pressure on their direct rivals in the league, maintaining their position just four points adrift of the top spot.
Xavi’s Tactical Choices
Following a similar lineup to the Clásico, Xavi once again positioned Araujo as a right-back with Cancelo playing a more advanced role. Lewandowski and Koundé returned to the starting lineup. Meanwhile, the recently recovered Pedri began the game on the bench due to a lack of competitive rhythm. Fermín and Gavi joined Gündogan in the midfield.
A Stormy Encounter
The strong winds and heavy rain that accompanied Barcelona’s arrival in Donostia had subsided by kickoff, but the tempestuous conditions had merely shifted to the playing field. Within the first 30 seconds, Barrenetxea had a scoring opportunity, Oyarzabal came close to capitalizing on Koundé’s error in ball distribution, and Mikel Merino narrowly missed a header from a corner kick. All of this transpired within the initial three minutes of the match. Barcelona struggled to break through the solid high pressing from the Basque side, and their primary attacking avenue involved Balde on the left, who had freedom but lacked the final touch.
Real Sociedad appeared comfortable, managing possession with ease and winning most of the battles. Former Barcelona player Take Kubo once again forced Ter Stegen into a brilliant save with a critical block early in the match. The night didn’t bode well for the Catalan side, and while Gavi made an attempt to open the scoring with a display of strength and quality, Zubeldia managed to thwart the young Andalusian’s effort. However, this brief spell of optimism proved to be a mirage as Real Sociedad resumed control.
Take, the standout performer for the home team, consistently troubled Barcelona’s defense, and just past the half-hour mark, the ‘txuri urdin’ came close to exploiting Ter Stegen’s mishandling to score the opener. The visitors’ performance was underwhelming, lacking ideas and failing to create scoring opportunities. Xavi’s touchline instructions aimed at correcting his players’ performance were relentless, but Real Sociedad maintained their dominance and continued to press for the opening goal. Barcelona desperately sought to reach halftime, hoping to regroup and correct their course, but just before the break, a potential penalty claim for Joao Félix went unsanctioned by referee Alberola Rojas, who opted not to award the spot-kick following a VAR consultation.
The Scoreless Half and the Need for Change
The 0-0 scoreline at halftime was the best possible outcome for Barcelona, offering a fresh start for the second half. However, the break did not result in improved performances from the Catalan side. Real Sociedad continued to dictate the tempo of the match. Xavi recognized the need for change and, before the hour-mark, introduced Pedri and Ferran Torres in place of Fermín and Lewandowski, who had minimal involvement in the first half.
Pedri’s presence on the field slightly curbed the intensity of the hosts, but Barcelona still struggled to generate dangerous attacking plays. The minutes passed with both sides testing each other. Xavi attempted further changes with Raphinha and Lamine Yamal, but they had little impact on the game. As the match reached its conclusion, both teams became more error-prone, with Barrenetxea and Araujo trying long-range shots, testing Ter Stegen and Remiro. Just as it seemed the match would end in a goalless draw, Araujo leaped to head the ball into the net from a well-placed cross by Gündogan. Initially ruled offside by Alberola Rojas’s assistant, VAR intervened to correct the decision and grant Barcelona a seemingly improbable victory.
A Victorious Night, but Room for Improvement
While the final score reflects a hard-fought victory for Barcelona, there is no denying that the team must improve its performance if they are to contend and win LaLiga. This win may have been a stroke of luck, but Barcelona will need to raise their game in the matches ahead to maintain their pursuit of the league title.