Barcelona had Robert Lewandowski’s first two La Liga goals and the timely substitution of Ansu Fati to thank for their 4-1 away victory over Real Sociedad to get up and running for the season after being held by Rayo Vallecano in a frustrating stalemate last weekend.
There was an electric start at Anoeta when Robert Lewandowski scored inside the first minute and then Alexander Isak cancelled that out only a few moments later.
Lewandowski’s maiden goal in La Liga was timestamped at 44 seconds, a straightforward first-time finish from just outside the six-yard box that came about after Alejandro Balde’s lung-busting run from deep down the left flank.
Frenkie de Jong was guilty of getting caught in possession when Isak levelled things up. A through ball made its way to the young Swede in the right channel and he just able to lift it over the onrushing Marc-Andre ter Stegen under pressure from Eric Garcia.
The game had a distinct end to end feel and Barça were close to restoring their lead when Ferran Torres fired just wide of the post from a good position on the edge of the box. But then Ter Stegen beat away an effort from Mikel Merino, while Takefusa Kubo failed to hit the target on the rebound.
La Real thought they had gone ahead at the end of the first half, but Ter Stegen somehow got quickly down to his left to divert David Silva’s shot wide of the post.
The end to end feel didn’t stop after half-time and it still seemed like both teams were capable of scoring. Only an offside flag denied the hosts a goal when Brais Mendez swung a deep free-kick into the box that Robin Le Normand stretched for – he may not have reached it but a host of La Real players in offside positions were too close to Ter Stegen’s line of sight.
Xavi turned to Fati from the bench with just under half an hour left and it made all the difference almost straight away. The youngster’s backheel half volley played in Ousmane Dembele to fire the Catalans back into the lead. Mere minutes later, Fati ghosted into a great position in the box and knocked the ball into the path of Lewandowski, who again made no mistake from close range.
The quick fire double killed Real Sociedad’s spirit and it was little to surprise to see the next goal also come from the gold shirts of Barça. It was roles reversed from the team’s third goal, with Lewandowski turning improvised provider with a backheel flick for Fati to calmly finish.
GK: Marc Andre ter Stegen (c) – 8/10 – Made some important saves when it was still 1-1 that later proved vital to the result.
CB: Ronald Araujo – 7/10 – Picked up a yellow card but was usually looking to pass the ball forward into the attacking third.
CB: Andreas Christensen – 6/10 – Plenty of the ball, plenty of passes.
CB: Eric Garcia – 5/10 – Arguably could have done more to stop Isak from getting his shot away for La Real’s goal.
CM: Frenkie de Jong – 6/10 – At fault for the early equaliser when he was dispossessed in a costly area. Still passed the ball near flawlessly.
CM: Pedri – 8/10 – Carried the ball well and could always be relied on to transition the team from attack to defence.
RM: Ousmane Dembele – 8/10 – Seemed to be a good attacking outlet when his teammates found him. It didn’t happen enough in the first half but he made a vital contribution with what proved to be the decisive goal.
AM: Gavi – 6/10 – Did okay but not as involved as Pedri.
AM: Ferran Torres – 6/10 – Went close to scoring in the first half but wasn’t involved enough and was later withdrawn.
LM: Alejandro Balde – 6/10 – Made the breakthrough possible with his driven run forward. Lacking on the defensive side of the ball.
ST: Robert Lewandowski – 9/10 – At his clinical best to break the deadlock in the opening minute and also put the game to bed later on.
SUB: Ansu Fati (64′ for Torres) – 9/10 – Made all the difference in what had been a game that could have gone either way before he arrived.
SUB: Raphinha (64′ for Balde) – 6/10
SUB: Jordi Alba (72′ for Dembele) – 6/10
SUB: Franck Kessie (85′ for Gavi) – N/A
SUB: Sergi Roberto (85′ for De Jong) – N/A
Head coach: Xavi – 8/10 – Bringing Fati on when he did changed the game in a huge way. Also switched systems at 3-1 to help see things through.