Barcelona failed to close the gap on leaders Real Madrid at the top of La Liga after being held to a 1-1 draw by Real Sociedad at the Anoeta on Sunday evening.Willian Jose headed the home team ahead eight minutes into the second half, only for Lionel Messi to draw Barca level just six minutes later with his 19th goal of the season.
However, there was late controversy in San Sebastian when Juanmi saw his 76th-minute effort ruled out for offside.
As a result, the championsare six points behind Los Blancos ahead of next weekend’s ‘El Clasico’ at the Nou Camp, while Sociedad have moved to within just a point of fourth-placed Atletico Madrid in the final Champions League berth.
Experienced centre-back Gerard Pique was fit enough to start in northern Spain, despite missing training on Friday with a knock.
However, the likes of Arda Turan, Andres Iniesta and Samuel Umtiti all missed out with injury, while Aleix Vidal was also absent due to “personal issues” as the champions went in search of their first win at the Anoeta since 2007.
Sociedad, though, went into the match with confidence levels high, having won their last four games in a row, and that was evident in a first half dominated by the home team.
If there was one criticism of the Basques, it was that they failed to test Barca No 1 Marc-Andre ter Stegen enough before the break, especially given their domination of both possession and territory.
In fact, the closest they came to breaking the deadlock was when Xabi Prieto rose powerfully at the far post to get his head on an inch-perfect cross from the left, only for the captain to place his effort wide of the target with the goal gaping.
As for Ter Stegen’s opposite number, Geronimo Rulli, Sociedad’s goalkeeper was a virtual spectator in the first period, not having a single save to make, with the closest the visitors coming to scoring being Javier Mascherano’s goalbound volley that was blocked.
Sociedad’s luck changed in the second period, though, as they deservedly broke the deadlock after 53 minutes through Jose’s well-taken strike, although Barca boss Luis Enrique will be furious with his side’s defending for the goal.
A simple long ball over the top caused confusion in the visitors’ back line, allowing Carlos Vela a clear run on goal, only for the advancing Ter Stegen to deny the Mexico striker with a smothering block.
The rebound then fell kindly to Jose, although the Brazilian still had much to do to beat both Ter Stegen and Pique on the line with his header from just inside the penalty area.
That goal, which had been coming, appeared to breathe new life into Barcelona, who were soon level after brilliant wing play by Neymar, who beat two players in a tight space on the left flank, before cutting the ball back for the unmarked Messi to smash home his 11th goal in his last eight games.
But if neutrals then expected Barca to go on and claim all three points, they were wrong as it was in fact Sociedad who came closest to claiming the spoils, and none more so than Juanmi.
Vela, who enjoyed a fine game in attack for the Basques, was initially desperately unlucky to see his curling effort from the right-hand edge of the area beat Ter Stegen, but then hit the underside of the bar.
However, from the rebound Juanmi put the ball in the back of the net, only for the fourth official to somehow judge the substitute offside when he was clearly onside.
Moments later, the visitors also came close to getting what would have been an undeserved winner, but Denis Suarez – brought on at half-time for the ineffective Ivan Rakitic – saw his effort cleared off the line after rounding Rulli in the Sociedad goal.
Source: Sky Sports