Match Reviews

Barcelona 1-0 Real Sociedad: Match Review

In Andres Iniesta’s last game in blaugrana colors, Barcelona edged out Real Sociedad in the season finale. The only goal of the game came from Philippe Coutinho, but in Iniesta’s goodbye, the score was always going to be secondary as the main story was always going to be the legendary No. 8.

As has been the norm in recent weeks in numerous games, neither side had anything to play for, however, Real Sociedad were looking to end their long standing winless streak at the Camp Nou. The visitors started brightly and were the more dangerous side in the early going. Seven minutes in, Adnan Januzaj fired a powerful shot from the edge of the area, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen made the save. Shortly thereafter Willian José fired a cannon from distance but missed the target.

Barcelona fired their first shot, albeit off target, in the tenth minutes when Andres Iniesta just missed the goal from the edge of the area. Iniesta was pulling most of the strings early in the game when the Catalans were in attack, showcasing magical touches that will be sorely missed next season. Gerard Pique had a brilliant opportunity to open the scoring in the 18th minute when he was left all alone on a corner kick, but connected poorly with the ball, sending an easy ball into the hands of Miguel Ángel Moyà.

The Catalans were taking control of the game after the early press from the visitors, but chances remained few and far between. Barcelona were pressing and buzzing around the area, but didn’t get their next chance until the 25th minute when Coutinho led Barcelona on a counter that saw Ousmane Dembele send a perfect cross right onto the head of Ivan Rakitić, but the Croatian’s aim was poor and he missed the target. Moments later, Dembele send another good ball into the area, but this time Luis Suarez missed the target.

Dembele continued to dance around Real Sociedad defenders on the right side while Iniesta and Coutinho offered plenty of creativity on the left, but Barcelona couldn’t crack the visitors’ defense that was very congested in the middle. A certain absentee from Barcelona’s lineup was once again proving to be a key missing player. Barcelona then had a penalty appeal turned down in the 35th minute when Nelson Semedo was brought down inside the area.

The visitors started to threaten more again toward the end of the half, and most of Sociedad’s danger came through Yerry Mina who once again struggled mightily. Barcelona breathed a collective sigh of relief in the 44th minute when Dembele went down under a massive studs-first tackle right into the young Frenchman’s ankle but after some treatment was able to return to the pitch – albeit with a noticeable limp.

When Dembele wasn’t left inside the locker room after the break the news was even better. The visitors pressed again at the start of the half, but their early chances didn’t result in much as ter Stegen wasn’t called into action. Dembele, playing without the noticeable limp, was subbed off in the 53rd minute and replaced by Denis Suarez. How bothered by the knock the Frenchman was is unclear, but immediately after sitting on the bench he was handed an ice-pack for his right ankle.

In the opening ten minutes of the second half, Barcelona hadn’t shown much. There was little life in their game, but then, in the 56th minute, seemingly out of nowhere Barcelona took the lead through Coutinho. The Brazilian has been arguably Barcelona’s best player in recent games with Lionel Messi given plenty of rest, and he brilliantly put Barcelona in front with a stunning curling shot that left Moya with no chance.

Ten minutes later, Messi was introduced as a substitute in place of Coutinho. Immediately after the stoppage, Pique had a glorious chance to double Barcelona’s lead from a free kick, but his shot went right at Moya. Moments later, Messi led Barcelona on the counter-attack and set-up Denis for a lovely chance, but his shot went well wide.

With time running out on the season, chances remained few at the Camp Nou as the next one didn’t come until the 77th minute when Messi and Suarez played a one-two with the latter supplying the former for a header, but Moya was able to make the save. Barcelona continued to attack, with Sociedad occasionally threatening on the counter, but neither side created much.

The most emotional moment of the match came in the 82nd minute when Ernesto Valverde prepared his final substitution. Paco Alcacer was ready to come on and for the last time in his career Iniesta walked off the Camp Nou pitch as a Barcelona player. Iniesta handed off the captain’s armband to Messi, said goodbye to his teammates on the pitch and amid loud chants from the Barcelona fans went to the bench.

Songs of appreciation of Iniesta continued, meanwhile, football continued to be played on both ends of the pitch as Sociedad pushed for the equalizer while Barcelona looked to put the game out of reach. However, the score would not change as Barcelona won with the smallest of margins to close the book on their 2017-18 season.

The spectacle at the Camp Nou continued though, as Barcelona celebrated the domestic double with Iniesta lifting the La Liga trophy and an emotional captain bidding his farewell to Barcelona.

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