Stuttering Barça beat Sociedad
Lionel Messi scored one goal and set up another as Barcelona stayed seven points behind Real Madrid with a 2-1 victory over Real Sociedad at the Nou Camp - but Pep Guardiola's men were made to work hard for their triumph. Messi's fine pass led to youngster Cristian Tello opening the scoring early on and the Argentina international doubled his side's lead in the 72nd minute with his 23rd league goal of the campaign.
However, Sociedad, who had caused Barcelona several problems at the back during the match, pulled a goal back immediately through substitute Carlos Vela to leave the home side facing a nervy finale. Barcelona held on for the win though to ensure that Madrid, who beat Getafe earlier in the evening, would not edge any further ahead in the title fight.
Barcelona came into the match having earned 28 from a possible 30 points at home this season, scoring 43 goals and conceding only two in the process, and they looked set for another comfortable evening when Messi went clean through in the fourth minute and was only denied by a superb save from Claudio Bravo. However, Sociedad proved they were going to be no pushovers as moments later Diego Ifran got in behind the home defence and it needed a top-class block from Victor Valdes to prevent the visitors taking the lead.
Tello takes the initiative
Barcelona survived that scare though and four minutes later they took the lead when Messi's perfect through-ball picked out the run of Tello and the 20-year-old was able to stab past Bravo. The champions then set about trying to increase their lead and Bravo was called on to keep out efforts from Messi and Thiago while Cesc Fabregas also spurned a good chance before half-time.
Barcelona failed to improve their lead before the break though and almost paid for their profligacy when Sociedad had a great chance to equalise at the start of the second half. Antoine Griezmann was left with only Valdes to beat after muscling Javier Mascherano off the ball but his low shot was stopped by the Barcelona keeper's feet.
Barcelona were soon back on the attack, and Messi saw one shot blocked on the line by a defender before Tello found the back of the net after Isaac Cuenca's effort had come back off the crossbar, only for the effort to be ruled out for offside after the shot deflected off a defender and struck Dani Alves on the line.
Barcelona need not have worried though as four minutes later they got their second goal when Messi got to Alves' lofted ball into the area ahead of Bravo and drilling a shot into the net. That should have ensured a comfortable finale for Barcelona but 60 seconds later Sociedad pulled a goal following a defensive mistake by Thiago. He lost possession to Griezmann, whose through-ball sent Vela away and he calmly slotted past Valdes.
That gave Sociedad a sniff of getting something out of the match, but they could not force a late equaliser as Barcelona claimed a potentially important victory.