Martin Braithwaite stole the show while Memphis Depay and Gerard Pique shone as well as Barcelona beat Real Sociedad 4-2 in their first La Liga game of 2021/22.

Barcelona kicked off the post-Lionel Messi era at the club in fine fashion as they thrashed Real Sociedad 4-2 at Camp Nou on Sunday night, riding on a double from Martin Braithwaite.

The Catalans were up and running just 19 minutes into the game as veteran defender Gerard Pique sent a clinical header into the back of the net from new signing Memphis Depay’s free-kick. Barcelona doubled their advantage on the cusp of half-time with another emphatic headed goal, this time from Braithwaite who applied the finishing touches to Frenkie de Jong’s cross.

The Danish international doubled his tally 14 minutes into the second half, tapping the ball home after Jordi Alba’s cross had been diverted into his path by the Real Sociedad goalkeeper. La Real, despite being three goals down, were not giving up and mounted a spirited fight as Julen Lobete pulled a goal back in the 82nd minute before Mikel Oyarzabal made it 3-2 three minutes later with a fine free-kick.

Barcelona, though, held their nerve under the pressure and were able to kill the game off in the first minute of stoppage time as Sergi Roberto buried the ball into the net to make it 4-2 and seal the victory for the Catalans. The late scare aside, it was a good start to the campaign for Ronald Koeman & co., especially considering the off-field issues that the club have been battling.

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Here are our player ratings for the Barcelona stars after their thumping win against Imanol Alguacil’s side at Camp Nou on Sunday.

Neto: 6/10

Very little to do throughout the game, but pulled off a fine stop to deny Mikel Merino at 3-0. No chance with either of Sociedad’s goals on the night.

Sergino Dest: 6.5/10

A decent outing for the USMNT international who picked his moments well to press forward, although the end product still needs a lot of polishing. Fairly solid with his defensive work. Grew tired with time and was taken off.

Eric Garcia: 7/10

Thrust straight into the starting XI despite his late arrival after the Olympics, the Barcelona new signing enjoyed a fine debut performance. Solid at the back, cutting out any threat with relative comfort while also was able to cover for Pique whenever needed. Withdrawn in the latter stages.

Gerard Pique: 8/10

Having helped Barcelona register their new signings by taking a huge pay cut, the veteran defender was also a hero on the pitch on Sunday. It seemed only fitting that it was he who headed in Depay’s free-kick for the opening goal. Defended resolutely throughout the contest and was not to blame for the goals that his side conceded late on.

Jordi Alba: 7.5/10

While Messi may no longer be at the club but Alba showed signs of a budding partnership with Depay in the left channel. Got forward to good effect and hardly gave anything away in the defensive half. Played a role in Barcelona’s third goal of the night.

Sergio Busquets: 6/10

Not the most imperious of displays in the middle of the park from the Barcelona captain but did his bit to ensure that the visitors never really gained any sort of control for most parts of the contest. Did seem a bit leggy at times, which is understandable after his involvement at the Euros.

Frenkie de Jong: 8/10

Having made a swift return from a pre-season injury, the Dutchman slotted right back into the starting XI and looked in fine fettle. Always looked to drive the team forward and make things happen. Got the assist for the second goal of the game with a lovely cross for Braithwaite and did not misplace a single pass all game.

Pedri: 7/10

Surprisingly not given a breather after his busy summer at the Euros and the Olympics. Nonetheless, Pedri hardly showed any signs of fatigue in what was a typically buzzing performance from the teenager. Moved the ball well, tried to engineer openings and even came close to scoring, with his shot being tipped over.

Antoine Griezmann: 7/10

Made a lively start to the encounter, missing narrowly with a half-volley before striking the woodwork with a headed effort. Sharp in his movement, linked up well with those around him and was involved in the buildup to the third goal. His off-the-ball work rate was top-notch again.

Martin Braithwaite: 9/10

For someone who continues to be linked with a move away from Camp Nou, Braithwaite showed what he can bring to the table for this Barcelona team on Sunday night. Pressed relentlessly from the top, had a shot very early on before grabbing a goal each on either side of half-time. Also grabbed the assist for the fourth goal of the game. Top display from the Dane.

Memphis Depay: 8/10

A debut to remember for the Player to Watch in our preview. Was a major threat each time he got on the ball as he drove at the opposition with purpose either trying to create an opening for a teammate or have a go at goal himself. Brilliant free-kick set Pique up for the opener while he played four key passes. Taken off to a rousing ovation from the Camp Nou faithful.

SUBSTITUTES

Emerson Royal: 5/10

Made his debut for the Catalans, replacing Dest for the last twenty minutes. At fault for Sociedad’s first goal of the night.

Sergi Roberto: 6/10

Replaced de Jong in the 71st minute. Got the goal in stoppage time to kill any chances of a late equaliser for the visitors.

Nico Gonzalez: N/A

The La Masia product came on for Busquets in the 82nd minute to make his competitive debut. Gave away the free-kick that led to the visitors’ second goal.

Ronald Araujo: N/A

On for Garcia with less than ten minutes left.

Clement Lenglet: N/A

90th minute substitute for Depay as Barcelona looked to hold on to their lead.

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