Barcelona began the post-Messi era with an exciting home win over Real Sociedad in the new season.
Barça dominated the first half of the game and was vital for 70 minutes, but allowed Real Sociedad to get back into the contest after they made substitutions and had a few nervous moments late before the game ends.
Ronald Koeman’s men played phenomenally as a team and did so well in the league’s first match, As they must now, following Messi’s departure, because no one can fill his shoes.
Barcelona – Goals: Piqué (19′), Braithwaite (45’+2, 59′), Roberto (90’+1)
R. Sociedad – Goals: Lobete (82’), Oyarzabal (85’)
The first 30 seconds of the game established the tone for Barcelona’s performance: they’d play fast, not be afraid to go long at times, and make as many runs in behind as they could.
That’s how Neto found Memphis Depay 50 yards down the field, who then released Martin Braithwaite, who hit the target with a shot.
In the first half, Barça was excellent, with fluency to their offence that was rarely seen under Ronald Koeman. Players quickly passed the ball to one another, taking two or three touches before finding a teammate, and someone was continually making a dash into space.
And the Catalans got two first-half goals to show for their dominance: first, it was Gerard Piqué who headed home a perfect cross from Memphis, and Braithwaite got his header in after a great cross by De Jong.
A brilliant Barça performance was rewarded with two goals at half-time, and an opening-day victory was just 45 minutes of solid football away.
Real Sociedad came out with a lot of intensity and heavy pressing after making two half-time substitutions.
They produced three quality chances in the first 10 minutes of the half, with Mikel Oyarzabal at the centre of everything good for Sociedad.
Real Sociedad was never as competent as Barca during the game, nor there were any severe chances for the away team, however, and Barça appeared to put the game out of reach with half an hour remaining when Braithwaite scored his second of the game after a great team play down the left flank.
However, after going up 3-0, Barça relaxed and allowed La Real to come back into the game in the final 15 minutes, and things became tense in three minutes: first, Lobete scored after a brilliant run and assisted by Barrenetxea, and then Mikel Oyarzabal scored a sensational freekick to make it 3-2 with five minutes to go. Barça badly needed a fourth to kill the game off, and they got it thanks to a superb counter-attack and a tap-in for Sergi Roberto after an assist by Braithwaite.
The final whistle signalled the conclusion of a good opening game of the season, which was far better than expected despite the two late goals allowed. If the first half can be the norm, this team will be a formidable force.
Fans Chanted “Messi!!Messi!!Messi!!”
At the start of the game, Barca fans screamed Messi’s name, while a section of the crowd booed president Joan Laporta, who had promised to retain the Argentine at the club when he was elected in March.
Due to coronavirus restrictions, only about 30,000 tickets were made available for the game at the 99,000-seat Camp Nou. Still, only 20,000 fans expressed interest in going, possibly indicating a lack of excitement for the upcoming season without Messi.
Superstars of the Game
Memphis Depaywas one of two debutants in the starting lineup, but he quickly established himself as a capable player eager to make things happen and thrill the audience.
He was also eager to lead by example, taking leadership of set pieces. In addition to delivering the assist for Gerard Pique’s opener, he came close to scoring himself.
A leader on and off the pitch, it fitted that Pique scored the first goal of the post-Messi era.
Martin Braithwaite scored two of Barcelona’s four goals, seizing the opportunity presented to him by Koeman.
It was the club’s famed Zubieta academy that offered them hope, with their first scored by 20-year-old Julen Lobete.
MikelOyarzaba scored a freekick that Messi would have been proud of.
Fans joy at watching their team again was evident, and great ovations were given to Pique, Memphis and Pedri, among others.