SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain – FC Barcelona rallied from an early deficit to defeat Real Sociedad 2-1 on Saturday, picking up its second straight road win against the Basque side and effectively ending the so-called Anoeta curse that stretched from 2011 to 2017.
Real Sociedad’s strategy was obvious from the outset, as the hosts tried not to give Barça’s technically skilled midfielders and forwards the space they needed while waiting for the perfect moment to counter-attack.
But despite its focus on defense, Real Sociedad opened the scoring in the 12th minute when Artiz Elustondo received a pass from Mexican defender Hector Moreno and fired a shot past Barça net minder Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.
The Anoeta curse seemed to be coming back to haunt Barcelona, which lost five league games and drew two others at Real Sociedad’s home ground between 2011 and 2017 before finally getting a win last season.
Barcelona, however, started to improve midway through the first half and tried to set up scoring chances for Lionel Messi, although the Argentine superstar appeared to be out-of-sorts following the recent international break.
The Catalans then hit full stride toward the end of the first half, with defender Gerard Pique nearly scoring off a corner kick and Croatian international Ivan Rakitic barely missing the mark on another shot.
With his team trailing at halftime, Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde tried to give a boost to his midfield by inserting Philippe Coutinho in the 46th minute and Sergio Busquets 10 minutes later.
But instead it was Real Sociedad that had two golden chances to double its lead, the first coming on a counter-attack play that ended with Mikel Oyarzabal sending the ball far over the goal and the second on a one-on-one chance that Theo Hernandez failed to convert against Ter Stegen.
The home side would then pay dearly for those squandered opportunities when Barcelona scored twice over a three-minute span.
Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez scored the equalizer for the Catalans at the 63-minute mark after Real Sociedad goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli failed to clear a ball out of the area, while Frenchman Ousmane Dembele scored what proved to be the game-winner in the 66th minute after some sloppy defending by the home side.
With the win, first-place Barça (12 points) is provisionally three points clear of Real Madrid at the top of the La Liga table.
The Blancos, however, can get back even on points with a Matchday 4 win on Saturday night on the road against Athletic Bilbao.