Lionel Messi a no-show in 5/10 performance for Barcelona against Real Sociedad
Barcelona walked away from Anoeta with three points after a 2-1 win over Real Sociedad on Saturday in La Liga but could quite easily have left with nothing.
Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele scored twice in four minutes to complete a second-half smash-and-grab in San Sebastian to preserve Barcelona's 100 percent start to the league season.
They say winning when playing badly is the mark of champions. That and Marc-Andre ter Stegen's superb second half were the only positives Barcelona could take after a poor display. They can also use this as evidence that the curse of Anoeta, where they traditionally suffer, is over.
It seems as soon as Ernesto Valverde strays from his "Gala XI," Barcelona suffer, and they were shockingly bad in the first half. Only after Philippe Coutinho and Sergio Busquets came on did they find any kind of balance, and even then, they were fortunate Real Sociedad didn't capitalise on their many chances.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Valverde dared to rotate, but with the game going badly, the coach reverted to his strongest side, and it paid off as Barcelona forced their way back into the game. However, bringing Arturo Vidal on late had the opposite effect the coach wanted and nearly saw them throw the game away.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 9 -- Had no chance with Aritz Elustondo's powerful opener, but did superbly in the second half as Barcelona left him increasingly exposed in search of the equaliser. Made a fine save to deny Real Madrid loanee Theo Hernandez when in on goal and another to keep out Juanmi's effort.
DF Nelson Semedo, 4 -- Any step forward by the Portuguese defender is followed by two backward. At the start of the season, he seemed to be improving, but having been left out for a couple of matches, he has regressed. Looked short of confidence, and as usual was the first fall guy when Valverde turned to his bench.
DF Gerard Pique, 6 -- Came close to equalising with a header from a corner and also sent a shot inches wide while claiming a penalty as he tumbled in the box. The defender caused havoc in the Real Sociedad area and was involved in the scramble in the box that led to Suarez's eventual winner.
DF Samuel Umtiti, 6 -- Worked hard to stop Real Sociedad on the counter, but despite his speed, could not catch them every time. However, the Catalans survived, and without him life would have been significantly harder.
DF Jordi Alba, 6 -- Quiet in the first half, but his attacking play was useful in the second, as Barcelona looked to turn the game around. This, in turn, meant he left huge gaps at the back, which La Real did not capitalise on.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 5 -- Asked to play the Sergio Busquets role with Barcelona's usual lynchpin rested. Unsurprisingly could not offer the team the level of control they have grown accustomed to, although he tried his best and was not at fault individually for the team's poor showing.
MF Sergi Roberto, 6 -- Restored to midfield as Valverde gave Semedo a start at right-back, but that only lasted half the game as he was placed back in defence for the second period. Even if he might prefer to start higher up the pitch, Barcelona look better with him in the defence.
MF Rafinha, 4 -- The Brazilian was close to leaving Barcelona in the summer but eventually stayed after a loan to Real Betis broke down. Given his first league appearance of the season, he could not capitalise with a bland performance, and Valverde took him off early in the second half.
FW Lionel Messi, 5 -- Dropped extremely deep in the first period as he sought the ball, and with the exception of a couple of neat passes and a shot that curled over, was far below his usual level. A rare no-show from the Argentine maestro.
FW Luis Suarez, 6 -- For a while, he spent more energy complaining than trying to play football. The Uruguayan appealed relentlessly for a nonexistent handball, perhaps forgetting that VAR is always watching. However, he was in the right place at the right time to prod home the goal that pulled Barcelona level.
FW Ousmane Dembele, 6 -- The Frenchman has been flying this season, and even though this was his worst performance so far, he still ended up scoring the decisive goal. That's a hat trick of winners now, after he scored the only goals in the Spanish Super Cup against Sevilla and the league win against Valladolid.
MF Philippe Coutinho, 7 -- After the Brazilian appeared, Barcelona notably improved. Added spark in the centre, showing he has already come a long way to replacing Andres Iniesta. It was no surprise the comeback was mounted only after his introduction.
MF Sergio Busquets, 7 -- When he is brought into games, it can sometimes be hard for the Catalan midfielder to adjust to the speed of the game. That was the case here, but regardless, his quality helped Barcelona find more of a footing.
MF Arturo Vidal, N/R -- Valverde tends to send on the Chilean scrapper to try and close out games, but the truth is that Barcelona lose some control instead of gain it.