Barcelona held to surprise draw in San SebastiánSeptember 11, 2011
FC Barcelona let slip a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 away at Real Sociedad on Saturday evening. Guardiola’s men had been in total control by half time, leading through goals by Xavi and Fàbregas, but two moments of defensive sloppiness allowed their Basque opponents back into the match.
Blessed with a squad that handle a certain amount of rotation, Guardiola had clearly looked upon this trip to San Sebastián as an opportunity to rest some of his prized talents following a busy international fortnight. This time Iniesta, Villa and Messi all took to the bench, with Sánchez, Fàbregas and Pedro forming an unorthodox front-line. Barça also returned to a 4-3-3, after the successful switch to a three-man defence against Villareal two weeks prior.
Here Barcelona started the first half with real purpose, opening the scoring within the first ten minutes; Cesc dropped deep and spotted the run of Alexis Sánchez, finding him completely free in the area with a ball over the top. The Chilean squared for Xavi, who finished with ease into the empty net.
Just two minutes later, Barcelona extended their lead with a similar move. This time Xavi provided the impetus, clipping a sumptuous lofted pass over the static Sociedad defence for Cesc. The former Arsenal man then laid the ball on for Pedro, before reacting first to Claudio Bravo’s save to finish with ease from seven yards.
Barring a muted call for a penalty when a shot from just outside the area collided with Andreu Fontàs’ shoulder, Real Sociedad offered little attacking threat in the first half. Really, Barça were comfortable, and might have added another goal when yet another high ball from Cesc found Pedro, who saw his attempted lob deflected wide by Bravo.
The second half was a remarkably different contest; Sociedad took to the field with renewed purpose, while a mixture of tiredness and complacency from Barça offered their opponents a route back into the match.
The warning signs were there right from the restart, when Imanol Agirretxe found some space in the Barcelona area before dragging a shot wide on the turn. Barcelona responded with a couple of half chances, for Pedro and Villa, on for the injured Alexis, but the home side was growing in confidence.
Sociedad’s first goal came via a swirling Xavi Prieto cross from the right flank. The flight of the ball caught Sergio Busquets slightly flat-footed, and Agirretxe was able to head the ball home practically unopposed.
Just a few seconds later it was David Villa’s turn to make a gaffe, when he turned just inside the Sociedad half and aimed an ill-advised back pass at Víctor Valdés. Agirretxe latched onto the ball, rounded Valdés and struck the crossbar, but Griezmann was on hand to head the ball home.
Guardiola threw Messi on in search of a winner, but Sociedad were now playing with confidence, and Barcelona had to settle for an unwelcome draw.
0-1 Xavi (min 9)
0-2 Cesc (min 11)
1-2 Agirretxe (min 59)
2-2 Griezman (min 61)