Real Sociedad vs. Barcelona: 5 Talking Points from Upset
All of Basque Country and even Madrid should be in a pretty celebratory mood tonight.
Real Sociedad have ended Barcelona unbeaten run in La Liga after a dramatic extra-time goal from Imanol Agirretxe gave his team a 3-2 victory.
Lionel Messi tied (Brazilian) Ronaldo by scoring in his 10th-straight league match, but that was not enough to get the win.
The hosts went down 2-0 to the league leaders after 25 minutes, but they never gave up and continued to play open football.
From the start, La Real pressed the Blaugrana midfield and the center-backs did an excellent job of marking and controlling Messi after about 15 minutes.
This was one of the more exciting games of football we've seen this season and both top Madrid teams will be rejoicing.
Here are five talking points from the huge upset.
Real Sociedad Have the Heart of Champions
No excuses, no blame, no need to figure out what Barcelona did wrong.
This day belongs to Real Sociedad for handing Barcelona their first defeat of the season and outplaying them for large stretches of the game.
La Real were down two goals to nil against the greatest team in Spain and even Europe before the half hour mark.
Rather than laying down and admitting defeat, they stormed back to score the winning goal just seconds before the final whistle had blown.
This was one of the biggest wins of the season and the Basques showed incredible spirit, pride and belief in each other.
Too often when giants like Barcelona lose, people focus too much on their own mistakes or failures.
Let's start giving credit to the better team instead and praise Real Sociedad for their huge win.
Pique's Red Shows How CB Help Is Needed
Gerard Pique was sent off just before the hour mark after earning two rather silly yellow cards (both deserved).
His absence left Barcelona very weak at the back and the hosts immediately took advantage by testing Barça's back line almost nonstop.
Not the Deciding Factor
While his being sent off made it easier for Real Sociedad (as did Javier Mascherano coming on), the Basques were really dangerous most of the night anyway.
Even when La Blaugrana had all of their defenders on the pitch, La Real's attacking midfielders were giving them loads of problems and getting into position plenty of times.
Pique getting sent off certainly opened the doors for the hosts, but the Basques looked on the verge of scoring before that and looked ready for the upset from the first whistle.
Depth Still a Problem
Still, Barça's No. 3 should know that he failed his team tonight and helped end a very tough week on a sour note.
Having to send Javier Mascherano in just shows how badly Tito Vilanova needs to invest in a true center-back.
The Argentinian was again partly responsible for the last goal due to some poor reading and marking.
Right now Barcelona have La Liga all but sealed and are favorites to win the Champions League.
If they were to lose Pique or Carles Puyol for a key match, though, their European title hopes would take a rather big hit without another truly great defender to step in.
La Real's Attacking Midfield Was Fantastic
Many Cules are already looking at someone to point fingers at after seeing their perfect season come to an end.
I suggest they start looking at the other team for once and give praise to Real Sociedad attacking midfield foursome.
Carlos Vela played as a striker, but often dropped back into his now comfortable position in midfield and formed a wide line with Antoine Griezmann, Xabi Prieto and Gonzalo Castro.
This foursome caused loads of problems for Barça's back line and never gave them a moment to rest.
In the first half Prieto and Vela were close to opening the scoring, but missed the chance.
Every time these guys got in range to shoot, they did and kept Victor Valdes on his toes much more than he is used to.
The great collective play of this group made for a very entertaining match that saw the better team win.
The Referee Could Have Made It Even Harder for Barça
Gerard Pique was rightly sent off around the hour mark, but Barcelona were a bit fortunate not to have lost another player in this match.
Andres Iniesta was extremely lucky not to have earned a second yellow card roughly 15 minutes before time for a rash and reckless tackle in midfield.
It would be fair to say that the ref showed a lot of favor due to Iniesta's reputation and the knowledge that he had already been booked.
Jordi Alba: Gary Medel 2.0?
Just before that, Jordi Alba once again showed that he has problems controlling his temper when the match is not going his way.
The left-back had a small war of words with Diego Ifran away from the ref before intentionally sending his shoulder into the forward's face.
I'm sure many Cules will say this was no big deal, but this incident was very similar to the one that saw Gary Medel sent off for sending his head into Cesc Fabregas in Sevilla's loss to Barça.
Alba's hit had just as much force behind it and if Ifran had gone down as dramatically as Fabregas did back in the fall, Jordi Alba might have seen his marching orders as well.
In the end, we just can't say that one player deserved punishment without saying the same for the other.
No Invincibles This Season
After 90 minutes of tough, exciting football against the best team in football, Real Sociedad were deserving of this win.
No team has played a better game against Barça in La Liga this season.
La Real ended Barcelona's undefeated season, but the table-toppers shouldn't get too discouraged.
Barça drew against a very good Malaga team mid-week and Real Sociedad certainly are no push-overs either.
While this loss, the draw and Victor Valdes announcement that he will not renew his contract made for a very tough week for Cules, the team should rebound soon enough.
This is a team that has won nearly every title they've targeted in the last half decade and know very well how to handle pressure.
Barcelona are still in great position in the league and could afford to lose a few more games without seriously feeling their grasp loosen.
If anything, this week can make the team stronger because they are being tested in January instead of in the spring when titles are on the line.
They may not become Spain's first undefeated team, but Barcelona are still favorites to win every competition they're currently in.