Spain: Barcelona struggle again in draw at Real Sociedad
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona failed to break its soccer curse at Real Sociedad on Sunday in a 1-1 draw in the Spanish league, its seventh straight visit to Anoeta Stadium without a win.
Lionel Messi's equalizer could only salvage a point against a less talented but more inspired Sociedad side that left the titleholders six points behind leader Real Madrid.
Sociedad dominated the match throughout, going ahead through striker Willian Jose after halftime and coming close to getting the win when Carlos Vela hit the woodwork twice in the final minutes.
Luis Enrique's Barcelona must now prepare for Madrid's visit next weekend in a "clasico" match that the Catalan club must win to keep in touch with its fierce rival.
"You can rarely say this about Barcelona, but very little, actually nothing, went our way today," Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said. "We won't win the league playing like this."
Sociedad, coached by former Barcelona player and reserve team coach Eusebio Sacristan, continued its excellent start to the season. The draw ended its four-round winning streak as it remained in fifth place.
No ground— not Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu, not Atletico Madrid's Vicente Calderon, not Sevilla's Sanchez Pizjuan— bedevils Barcelona like Anoeta Stadium in San Sebastian. It hasn't won here since 2007, with a record since then of five losses and two draws.
Barcelona, a team that is synonymous with control of the ball and precision of pass, was unrecognizable.
Sociedad's pressure completely unnerved Barcelona, reducing a team of stars that was only missing the injured Andres Iniesta into a jittery, error-prone squad that couldn't stop the steady stream of chances for the hosts.
Sociedad's David Zurutuza, Xabi Prieto, Vela and Inigo Martinez all threatened to score before the half-hour mark, and Sociedad generated eight corner kicks before Barcelona even managed its first.
For all the verve Sociedad showed going forward, Barcelona's trio of Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez barely received the ball from their tired teammates.
The closest Barcelona came to mustering a shot on goal before halftime was Suarez's desperate long strike that flew wide when a loose ball fell to him.
Neymar finally forced goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli into action to parry his free kick in the 50th.
But that was only a prelude to Willian Jose's header that Pique tried to clear from the goal line only to send it into the top of the net in the 53rd. The goal came from a rebound of Marc-Andre ter Stegen's save against a shot by Vela.
Messi leveled the match six minutes later with his ninth goal of the campaign after Neymar finally broke down the left flank and squared the ball to the Argentina forward to rifle in with his left foot.
But Sociedad wasn't shaken and went close several times to getting a second goal. Vela hit the bar in the 76th— with the ball ricocheting off the goal line— and struck the upright in the 83rd.
Catalan television reported that Neymar was in a minor car accident in Barcelona before he and the team traveled to San Sebastian. He started the match and appeared unaffected by the incident.