Liga - Rampant Sociedad halt Barca title charge

La Liga, Anoeta - Real Sociedad 3 (Song og 32, Griezmann 54, Zurutuza 59) Barcelona 1 (Messi 36)

Barcelona’s title challenge was dealt a shuddering blow as Tata Martino’s side was beaten 3-1 by a rampant Real Sociedad.

The Basque side battered Barca for much of the game, with goals from Gorka Elustondo, Antoine Griezmann and David Zurutuza cancelling out Lionel Messi’s first half equaliser to give La Real all three points.

The defeat leaves Barcelona three points adrift of title rivals Real Madrid, with Atletico Madrid set to play Osasuna on Sunday.

Martino made six changes to the side that beat Manchester City in the Champions League during the week, with Neymar coming into the line-up and Alex Song starting alongside Sergio Busquets in midfield.

Sociedad were lively from the start and took the lead after 32 minutes, when Elustondo’s header from a wicked Sergio Canales cross took a touch off Alex Song on its way into the Barca net.

However, the Liga champions responded almost immediately, with Messi lashing into the bottom corner after good build-up play by Dani Alves and Sergio Busquets on the edge of the box.

Yet it was Sociedad who took the lead again, when Griezmann finished off a rapid counter-attacking move, with Carlos Vela setting up the Frenchman for a simple conversion.

And Sociedad found the net again when Zurutuza nipped in to flick Griezmann’s chipped cross into the penalty area over the hesitant Valdes.

The home side continued to cause Barcelona problems, with Gerard Pique and Marc Bartra struggling to cope with the pace of the Sociedad front three. Vela came within inches of making it 4-1 as he fired a shot off the base of the post.

With time running out Barca pressed for a way back into the game but Sociedad’s well-organized defence held firm for a famous victory.

Elsewhere, Rafinha earned Celta Vigo a 1-1 draw with Getafe after Angel Lafita had put the visitors ahead while Almeria drew 0-0 with fellow strugglers Malaga.

KEY EVENTS

LINEUP – Neymar has been handed the start by Barcelona coach Tata Martino, who has made six changes from the side that beat Manchester City on Tuesday.

23’ PLAY ON? – Well, Sociedad are unhappy with the decision to stop play for a foul by Busquets, and they have a case! If the ref had played advantage Vela wa in behind the Barca defence. The play actualy ended with Griezmann putting the ball in the net, but the game had been stopped for some time by then.

29’ CHANCE – Good opportunity for the home side! Zurutuza plays through Vela, who takes the pass on the chest and swivels. However his shot flashes just over the target. He needed to test Valdes from that position!

30’ VELA AGAIN – Vela comes close again! The Mexican striker cuts inside off the right wing and shoots at goal, forcing Valdes into a great, low down save. He was at full stretch! Great effort by Vela, who looks very lively tonight.

32’ GOAL – The goal has been coming! Canales swings a sweet cross into the box for Elustondo, and the midfielder powers a header past Valdes in the Barca net!

35’ EQUALISER – And there's the response! Messi has been on the fringes of the game but he's just fired into the back of the net from the edge of the box. Bravo had no chance!

40’ HUGE CHANCE – What. A. Chance! Pique makes a huge error, scuffing his clearance on the edge of the box, allowing Vela to come on to it. But the Mexican striker opts for power over placement and fires his shot over the bar! Oh dear.

53’ CHANCE – Great chance! Canales puts another great freekick delivery on top of Valdes, who flaps at the ball once again. Gonzalez gets there ahead of the Barca keeper but he heads over the bar. He had to score!

54’ GOAL - They take the lead again! Sociedad catch out Barca on the break and Vela squares the ball across the penalty area for Griezmann to finish high into the net on the stretch!

58’ GOAL – Barca are all over the place! Griezmann picks out Zurutuza, who is completely unmarked and breaks the offside trap to flick the ball past Valdes.

80’ INCREDIBLE - Unbelievable! How haven't Sociedad scored again? First of all Prieto squares the ball for Vela, who somehow strikes the foot of the post. And even after that Vela had more chances to find the net, only for Pique to block. Wow!

KEY STATS

Barcelona last won an away game against Real Sociedad in the 2006/2007 season.

Alex Song has been on the losing side in the league for the first time as a Barcelona player. He’d won all 30 of his previous league games.

Barcelona have never won a Spanish league game away from home when they’ve been two goals down after 75 minutes.

TALKING POINT

What happened to the Barca team that beat City? This performance was made all the more puzzling by the fact that just five days ago Barcelona turned in one of their best displays of the season against City in the Champions League. Did Martino mess too much with the system by resting so many? Or did Sociedad just show how City should have played against Barca?

MAN OF THE MATCH

Antoine Griezmann - All three of Sociedad’s front line had legitimate cases for Man of the Match, but by virtue of his crucial goal Griezmann edges out Canales and Vela. The Frenchman gave his team an outlet on the break, with his free role proving impossible for Pique and co. to track. He was irresistible, showing why some of Europe’s biggest clubs are after him.

PLAYER RATINGS

Real Sociedad – Bravo 7, Zaldua 8, Gonzalez 8, Martinez 7, Angel 8, Markel 6, Elustondo 8, Zurutuza 8, Canales 9, Vela 9, Griezmann 9. Subs – Prieto 6.

Barcelona – Valdes 4, Montoya 3, Pique 3, Bartra 5, Adriano 5, Busquets 4, Song 5, Iniesta 5, Pedro 5, Neymar 4, Messi 6. Subs – Fabregas 4, Sanchez 3.