Barcelona Defeat Real Sociedad in 1st Match Since Lionel Messi's Exit To PSG

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVAugust 15, 2021

BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 15: Martin Braithwaite of FC Barcelona celebrates with team mates after scoring their side's second goal during the LaLiga Santander match between FC Barcelona and Real Sociedad at Camp Nou on August 15, 2021 in Barcelona, Spain. FC Barcelona will host between 20,000 and 22,0000 fans in the stadium as the Regional government has authorised a capacity of 30 percent with the requirement to maintain a meter and a half distance between people or groups of people who have tickets. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Barcelona didn't miss Lionel Messi in its first match of the 2021-22 La Liga season, earning a 4-2 win over Real Sociedad.

Martin Braithwaite scored two goals for the home team at Camp Nou on Sunday, matching his scoring total for all of last season. The forward then helped close things out with an assist to Sergi Roberto in extra time, sealing the win after Real Sociedad created drama with two late goals.

Even with some nervy moments in the closing minutes, it was a well-deserved victory for the Spanish giants.

The match was a start of a new era for Barcelona without Messi, who spent 17 years with the club while winning four Champions League trophies and 10 league titles. The club was unable to keep him this summer due to financial restrictions, and he signed with Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer last week.

Manager Ronald Koeman is looking to keep the club's same level of success without the superstar, and the first competitive match represented a good start.

Barcelona mostly controlled the action from the opening kickoff, finishing with 62 percent possession while getting eight shots on goal compared to just three from Real Sociedad.

After some close chances early, Gerard Pique was the first on the scoresheet with a header off a set piece:


Saturday: Pique took a pay cut to allow Barcelona to register Memphis.<br><br>Sunday: Memphis assists Pique, who scores Barca's first goal of the season. <a href="https://t.co/XPF0PEYqwf">pic.twitter.com/XPF0PEYqwf</a>

Just before halftime, Frenkie de Jong set up Braithwaite for another Barcelona goal:


A new Barcelona πŸ˜…<br> <br>Two goals coming from headers! <a href="https://t.co/TAnpAhC7H7">pic.twitter.com/TAnpAhC7H7</a>

Even without Messi, Barca showed its talent with sharp passing and an attacking mindset.

The 2-0 lead at halftime was well-earned with nearly everyone on the pitch playing well:

Roy Nemer @RoyNemer

A good half by Barcelona. Memphis relishing the spotlight, not afraid of having the ball. Braithwaite involved a lot too. Pique's goal was massive as they looked more composed after it.

New addition Memphis Depay did well in his attempt to fill in at striker. He assisted Pique on the free-kick and caused a lot of problems for Real Sociedad while beating defenders and drawing fouls. Even if he didn't score, the transfer from Lyon made his presence felt and showcased his upside heading into the season.

In the 59th minute, Braithwaite came through again to earn his brace on a rebound following a shot by Jordi Alba.

Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan

Koeman pretty clear yesterday that he was still hoping for a new centre-forward by end of window, somehow. Braithwaite making decent case today for them to just keep him instead.

LaLiga English @LaLigaEN

The first Dane EVER to score a double in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LaLigaSantander?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LaLigaSantander</a>! ✌️<br><br>πŸ‡©πŸ‡° <a href="https://twitter.com/MartinBraith?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MartinBraith</a> πŸ‡©πŸ‡°<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Bar%C3%A7aRealSociedad?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BarΓ§aRealSociedad</a> <a href="https://t.co/trqfaAj0jC">pic.twitter.com/trqfaAj0jC</a>

The final goal came on a counterattack as Braithwaite crossed to Roberto for an easy tap-in in the 91st minute.

This helped ease some concerns from the home supporters, who saw a 3-0 lead almost evaporate with two quick goals by Real Sociedad. Neto was barely challenged in net until Julen Lobete fired one past him in the 82nd minute.

The visitors then cut the margin again in the 85th minute on an excellent free kick by Mikel Oyarzabal:


Mikel Oyarzabal with a beautiful free kick for Real Sociedad! 🀩 <a href="https://t.co/1CxmjrZuUk">pic.twitter.com/1CxmjrZuUk</a>

It simply wasn't enough for the underdogs to get a result in the opening match of the league season.

Barcelona will be on the road next match against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday. Real Sociedad will host Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.