Barcelona's La Liga title challenge suffered a setback in a 3-1 loss at Real Sociedad on Saturday at the Anoeta.
Real Sociedad impressed throughout, repeatedly exposing Barcelona's defence with direct, incisive attacks. La Real went ahead in the 32nd minute via an Alex Song own goal, before Barcelona drew level just four minutes later as Lionel Messi finished a fine team move.
The hosts deservedly retook the lead through Antoine Griezmann in the 54th minute, and David Zurutuza made it 3-1 five minutes later, with Griezmann grabbing the assist.
Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino was dismissed at half-time and watched the second half from the stands.
The result left Barcelona three points behind Real Madrid, who won 3-0 at home to Elche earlier Saturday. Atletico Madrid, who entered the day in third place on goal differential, play at Osasuna on Sunday.
With the win, Real Socieded moved up to fifth place on 43 points, one point behind Athletic Bilbao in fourth.
"It’s nothing to be worried about," Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said after the loss, per Inside Spanish Football. "We’re one game away from the lead and it's all the same if you lose one game or two, but we’ll have to analyse why things haven’t gone well for us. Now we have a week to rest and reflect."
Barcelona will look to get back on track next Sunday with a home match against Almeria. Martino's side will be hoping to collect full points with title rivals Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid facing off the same day.
Meanwhile, Barca remain in the hunt for silverware in both the Spanish Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League. The Spanish Cup final, which will see Barca play rivals Real Madrid, is set for April 19. As for the Champions League, Barca will host Manchester City on March 12 following a 2-0 win at the Etihad Stadium in the first leg of their round of 16 tie.
Sociedad and Barca also met in the Copa del Rey semi-finals earlier this month, with Barcelona winning 3-1 over two legs. This time, though, the home side took the lead after a period of dominance midway through the first half.
Sociedad's frequent attacks grew in danger, with Carlos Vela lashing a shot over the bar in the 29th minute after chesting down Zurutuza's pass. One minute later, Valdes pushed away Vela's rasping shot-cross with Gorka Elustondo lurking in the middle.
Sociedad were then rewarded for their fine play with the breakthrough goal in the 32nd minute.
Canales played a short corner to Vela and, after receiving the pass back, crossed for Elustondo in the box. Song took the final touch under pressure from Elustondo, and the own goal gave Sociedad a 1-0 lead.
"Playing against Barcelona is always difficult," Zurutuza said, per Inside Spanish Football. "We played how we wanted and showed it."
Zurutuza added: "Whatever happened in the Copa del Rey is in the past, but La Liga is a different story. We thoroughly prepared for this match and we went out fighting."
The opening goal was no more than the hosts deserved, but four minutes later, Barcelona pulled themselves level.
The equaliser came from a vintage Barca move, as Montoya cut into the middle and passed to Sergio Busquets, who let the ball roll through his legs with a clever dummy. Messi took a touch before finishing in the bottom corner to make it 1-1 in the 36th minute.
A slip by Pique gifted Sociedad a chance to reclaim the lead in the 40th minute, but Vela fired his first-time shot over the bar and the score remained 1-1 at half-time.
After the break, Sociedad again came close to retaking the lead in the 53rd minute as Mikel Gonzalez headed over the target from Canales' free kick. But only one minute later, the hosts had their second goal.
Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo played a long kick out of his area, and Barcelona's Marc Bartra flicked a header back toward his own box. Vela ran onto the ball and crossed for Griezmann, who directed a sliding, first-time finish past Victor Valdes for a 2-1 lead in the 54th minute.
Bravo then had to be at his best in the 56th minute to tip away Pique's header as Barcelona tried to equalise quickly once again. Instead, Sociedad made it 3-1 in the 59th minute after more poor defending by Barca.
With time and space on the right, Griezmann picked out Zurutuza's run through Barcelona's defence with a fine curling ball into the middle. Valdes rushed off his line, but Zurutuza reached the cross first to lift the ball past the keeper and into the net.
Barcelona were stunned, but they were far from finished. Substitute Cesc Fabregas picked out Neymar at the far post with a 73rd-minute cross, but Neymar's stooping header went wide of the post.
La Real had a chance to make it 4-1 in the 81st minute, but Vela shot off the near upright from substitute Xabi Prieto's cross.
It wasn't to be, however, and Sociedad had to be content with a 3-1 victory, a scoreline that in no way flattered them.
|Real Sociedad Player Ratings vs. Barcelona|
|Barcelona Player Ratings vs. Real Sociedad|
Real Sociedad play at Sevilla in the league next Sunday. Barcelona host Almeria the same day.