Spanish league leaders Barcelona solidified their lead at the top of the table after their 2-1 win against Real Sociedad. The Lionel Messi-led side now just need another six points to bag their second successive league title.
The Catalan giants currently have 77 points after 33 matches played and they lead second-placed Atletico Madrid by nine points and can lift the title by April itself as they have fixtures against Alaves and Levante coming up.
For 10th-place Sociedad who lost to Barcelona on Saturday, it’s now 28 years since they last won a match at Camp Nou, though they can take some comfort from forcing Barcelona to work for the points.
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde made only three changes from the lineup that crushed Manchester United 3-0 here a few days ago to send the Catalan club into the Champions League semifinal.
Even so, the hosts were below their usual standard and Sociedad set the tone for much of the first half.
Barca did plenty of attacking, but patience and coordination were lacking and the only anxious moments for visiting goalkeeper Gero Rulli came on a pair of free kicks by Leonel Messi.
At the opposite end, Barcelona keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen had to make stops in quick succession against Juanmi and Willian Jose before Rulli turned aside a low blast from Luis Suarez.
The hosts broke through in the 45th minute on a set piece, as Clement Lenglet got his head to an Ousmane Dembele corner to put Barcelona ahead 1-0 at the break.
Sociedad started the second half in high gear, making it difficult for Barcelona to play out from the back.
Ruben Pardo tried his luck from a distance, and the shot took a deflection off Barcelona defender Nelson Semedo, but Ter Stegen reacted in time to turn the ball aside.
And when midfielder Igor Zubeldia went down with an injury, Sociedad coach Imanol Alguacil decided to replace him with the attack-minded Luca Sangalli.
While the change initially helped Barca by opening up space in the middle of the pitch, Sociedad managed to string together enough passes for Mikel Merino to find Juanmi in scoring position and the forward deftly lifted the ball over Ter Stegen to make it 1-1 in the 62nd minute.
The Basque squad’s joy turned out to be short-lived, however, as it took only two minutes for the hosts to retake the lead.
Messi passed to Jordi Alba on the left side and instead of returning the ball to the Argentine star, the defender took the shot himself and beat Rulli for the 2-1.
Instead of sitting on the lead, Barcelona sought a third goal as Sociedad chased after another equaliser, but Alba had the final word.
(With IANS Inputs)