Barcelona finally ended their Anoeta curse on Sunday as they came back from two goals down to enjoy a stirring 4-2 win over Real Sociedad.
The Catalan club came into the match at San Sebastian looking to win their first game at the stadium in 11 years. And things looked extremely grim after the first half an hour as Willian Jose and Juanmi gave La Real a healthy two-goal cushion, before Paulinho pulled one back for the visitors heading into half-time.
The comeback was then set in motion five minutes into the second half, with a stupendous curling effort from the edge of the box, before scoring his second to give Barcelona the lead. The win was then rounded off with five minutes to go in regulation time with a sublime free-kick.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 14, 2018
The result meant Barcelona maintained their nine-point lead at the top of the La Liga table, with bitter rivals Real Madrid a further 10 points behind. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ernesto Valverde’s men after a spectacular comeback win.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 6/10
There was not a lot to fault out of ter Stegen’s performance despite the fact that he conceded two goals. The German, in fact, stood little chance of saving those two shots, the second being heavily deflected. He saved Barcelona further embarrassment as he made a fine save from Sergio Canales before the break.
Sergi Roberto: 7/10
Roberto struggled in the first half against the pace and trickery of Mikel Oyarzabal, but he found his feet as the game approached half-time. He grew considerably into the game in the final 45 minutes, even setting up Luis Suarez’s second goal. Seems to be back as a right-back for good, despite his insistence to play as a midfielder.
Gerard Pique: 6.5/10
Like the rest of his partners in defence, Pique had a tough time in the first 40 minutes or so. Beyond that though, Pique became the leader that Ernesto Valverde envisions him to be, organising the back-line while also driving forward to help out the midfielders.
Thomas Vermaelen: 7/10
Vermaelen: “We know our history on this field. We knew it would be a tough match and it wasn’t easy to make a comeback from 2-0 down.” pic.twitter.com/DN1aZIQwIu
— BarcaSpiral (@BarcaSpiral) January 14, 2018
Vermaelen continued to grow into his role at the heart of defence on Sunday as he proved himself to be a worthy backup in the absence of Samuel Umtiti once again. The only blip in an otherwise solid performance was the Belgian’s poor marking of Juanmi in the build-up to Real Sociedad’s second goal.
Apart from that moment, Vermaelen was strong in reading the danger posed by La Real‘s attack, even providing an assist to Suarez through a header.
Jordi Alba: 7/10
A slightly underwhelming performance by Alba, who couldn’t advance forward as regularly as he usually does with Alvaro Odriozola keeping him busy on the left flank. His defensive output was supreme though, with the Spaniard recovering a lot of balls.
Ivan Rakitic: 6/10
As is typical of most of his outings, Rakitic ran and ran, projecting some impressive work rate. But, the Croat couldn’t remain consistent enough through his stint, often having his hands full against David Zurutuza. He needs to address his consistency woes.
Paulinho in La Liga 2017/18:
– 993 Minutes played
– 8 Goals
– 26 Total Shots
– 2 Assists
– 18 Successful take ons
Ronaldo in La Liga 2017/18:
– 1245 Minutes played
– 4 Goals
– 93 Total Shots
– 2 Assists
– 11 Successful take ons pic.twitter.com/NnRdmq8mhC
— FCB One Touch (@fcb_OneTouch) January 15, 2018
Not at his best on the night, Paulinho still managed to be a factor for Barcelona, scoring the first goal for the visitors to initiate the comeback effort. The Brazilian was poor in his defensive duties, with his failure to track Willian Jose for Real Sociedad’s first goal being especially disappointing.
Sergio Busquets: 6.5/10
Another player who did not have the best of nights on Sunday, largely due to the superb pressing game of the hosts. But, after a sub-par first half, Busquets imposed himself in the final 45 minutes, helping Barcelona retain control of the game, eventually completing the stirring comeback.
Andre Gomes: 5/10
A surprise starter ahead of captain Andres Iniesta, as well as Denis Suarez, Gomes did very little to justify his selection. The Portuguese midfielder struggled to make any sort of impact whatsoever, and was rightly taken off in the second half as Barcelona looked to get all three points.
Lionel Messi: 8/10
Lionel Messi becomes the HIGHEST goalscorer for a single European Club in football history. 😎👏
📅 Games: 401
⚽️ Goals: 366
⬅️ Left Foot: 297
➡️ Right Foot: 55
👤 Header: 14
The King. 👑 pic.twitter.com/q2QOGixbT8
— 8 Fact Football (@8Fact_Footballl) January 15, 2018
Messi wasn’t at his very best for large parts of the game, but he turned it around just when it mattered the most. The Argentine first set up Suarez’s first goal before completing a fine win with a magnificent free-kick to take his tally to 17 La Liga goals this season. Where would Barcelona be without him?
Luis Suarez: 9.5/10
Luis Suarez rolled back the years on Sunday to produce his best performance of the season. He may not have had a goal in the first half, but the Uruguayan looked the most threatening outlet for the visitors, before setting up Paulinho for his side’s opener.
Luis Suarez has really hit form in time for the second half of the season 🔥 pic.twitter.com/GlCduHFwLP
— B/R Football (@brfootball) January 15, 2018
He then grabbed two for himself in the second half to get his side all three points. The first of his goals was a Suarez classic, bending the ball around the goalkeeper like only he can, and the second was brilliant too. With the player retracing his best form, Barcelona could become a different beast for the remainder of the campaign.
Ousmane Dembele: 6/10
Dembele could not make much of an impact during his short stint on the pitch and he now faces up to four weeks on the sidelines after sustaining a hamstring injury.