Lionel Messi double helps Barca edge to win over Real Sociedad
La Liga, Camp Nou - Barcelona 3 (Messi 17', 37', Alcacer 44') Real Sociedad 2 (Umtiti OG 42', Prieto 45')
Barcelona kept within touching distance of Liga leaders Real Madrid ahead of next week’s Clasico, seeing out a nervy 3-2 win over a Real Sociedad side that probably deserved more at the Camp Nou.
Lionel Messi gave the hosts the lead after 17 minutes, doubling their advantage after the half-hour mark. However, a flurry of goals towards the end of the first half saw Real Sociedad drag themselves back into contention, with 3-2 the scoreline heading into the break.
The Catalans looked increasingly tired as the second half progressed, with their Champions League exerts against Juventus during the week having a real impact on their play, particularly at the back.
Players of FC Barcelona celebrate after their teammate Lionel Messi scored the opening goal during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real SociedadGetty Images
But La Real couldn’t make the most of their second half pressure, with Barcelona holding on for a crucial three points, keeping them in title contention ahead of next week’s trip to the capital to face Real Madrid.
TALKING POINT - Fatigue is hitting Barcelona for the second straight season
This happened last season. With Barcelona’s squad lacking in depth, fatigue caught up with them towards the end of the 2015/16 campaign, spoiling what was up until them looking to be a historic year. The Catalans vowed to add to their squad in the summer transfer window, but one year on they face the same situation, with their season fizzling out due to weariness.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Asier Illarramendi
The former Real Madrid midfielder controlled things in the middle of the park for Real Sociedad, getting the better of Ivan Rakitic, Andre Gomes and Sergio Busquets almost all on his own. Asier Illarramendi showed why he was once considered the finest young midfielder in Spain, excelling on the gigantic playing surface of the Camp Nou. He didn’t deserve to end up on the losing side.
16’ GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Real Sociedad: Barcelona have the opener! What a sensational strike from Messi, with the number 10 finding the bottom corner of the net with a low drive from the best part of 30 yards out.
37’ GOAL! Barcelona 2-0 Real Sociedad: The hosts have doubled their advantage! Rulli made an astonishing save from Suarez, but the rebound fell to Messi, who bundled the ball home from close range to make it 2-0.
43’ GOAL! Barcelona 2-1 Real Sociedad: Barcelona's dream of a clean sheet is over! Martinez rescues a cross at the back post, wriggling past two tackles before hammering a shot into the net off Umtiti, who knew nothing about it.
Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates after scoring a goal during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Sociedad de Futbol at Camp Nou Stadium on April 15, 2017Getty Images
44’ GOAL! Barcelona 3-1 Real Sociedad: The home side restore their two goal lead almost instantly! Messi plays in Alcacer, who does really well to get the ball out of his feet and find the far corner of the net with a low finish.
45’ GOAL! Barcelona 3-2 Real Sociedad: It's just so easy for Real Sociedad to create chances against this Barcelona defence. This time Prieto ghosts in between two defenders and side foots a finish past Ter Stegen.
Lionel Messi has scored more goals (seven) from outside the box than any other player in any of Europe's top five leagues this season.
Barcelona have kept just one clean sheet in their last eight outings.
Barcelona have won their last 19 league games at home against Real Sociedad, scoring a total of 54 goals.