Home LALIGA Uruguayan center-back saves Barca in injury time.

Uruguayan center-back saves Barca in injury time.

by Gabriele Marcotti
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Ronald Araujo shone with a leaping header in the second minute of injury time to help Barcelona win 1-0 against Real Sociedad in the 12th round of La Liga.

Barcelona had their best chances in injury time during the match at Anoeta yesterday. In the first minute of injury time, Pedri provided an ideal setup for Gavi, who took a one-touch shot without being closely marked in the penalty area but could not beat Sociedad’s goalkeeper, Alex Remiro.

The difference came just a minute later when Ilkay Gundogan chipped the ball into the penalty area, and Araujo leaped to head the ball past two Sociedad defenders. The Uruguayan center-back fell to the ground, holding his head when he saw the assistant referee raising the offside flag. However, VAR intervened, and the officials determined that Araujo’s goal was legitimate.

In the 91st minute and 58 seconds, Araujo scored the latest winning goal for Barcelona in La Liga since Robert Lewandowski scored in the 92nd minute and 55 seconds in the match against Valencia in October 2022. This was also the 24-year-old defender’s first goal in nine games across all competitions this season.

Similar to their El Clasico loss to Real Madrid a week ago, Xavi continued to use a 3-5-2 formation as Barcelona visited Sociedad with a defensive trio of Inigo Martinez, Jules Kounde, and Ronald Araujo. The two wingbacks were Alejandro Balde and Joao Cancelo, and the attack combined Joao Felix and Robert Lewandowski.

Barcelona struggled in their new system and allowed Sociedad to create dangerous opportunities in the first half. In the 25th second, Ander Barrenetxea penetrated the penalty area and comfortably fired a right-footed shot at the near post, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen blocked it.

In the 2nd minute, Kounde made a costly pass that became an assist for Oyarzabal. The number 10 forward took a one-touch shot across the goal, but Ter Stegen deflected it wide. In the subsequent corner kick, Mikel Merino’s headed effort grazed the post. In the 16th minute, from a cross on the left wing, Takefusa Kubo took a one-touch shot from a tight angle that was blocked by Ter Stegen.

Kounde (number 23) in an aerial duel with Oyarzabal at Anoeta on November 4th.

In the second half, Sociedad continued to dominate, and there was a contentious moment in the 66th minute. Kounde tripped Oyarzabal inside the penalty area, but referee Javier Alberola didn’t blow the whistle, and VAR didn’t intervene either. A few minutes later, Barrenetxea attempted a powerful volley from outside the penalty area but still couldn’t beat Ter Stegen.

Barcelona only came alive in the final 15 minutes, with Raphinha and Gavi taking shots before Araujo’s goal made the difference. With a 1-0 victory, Barcelona narrowed the gap with Real Madrid to just one point, although they’ve played one more match.

On November 7th, Xavi’s team will continue as they face Shakhtar Donetsk in the fourth round of the Champions League Group H. A win would secure Barcelona’s spot in the knockout stage with two matches to spare.

Starting line-up:

Sociedad: Remiro; Munoz, Le Normand, Zubeldia, Traore (Elustondo 63); Merino, Zubimendi, Mendez; Barrenetxea (Mohamed-Ali Cho 79), Oyarzabal (Fernandez 84), Kubo.

Barca: Ter Stegen; Martínez, Kounde, Araujo; Balde, Gundogan, Gavi, Cancelo (Raphinha 69); Lopez (Torres 57); Felix (Yamal 69), Lewandowski (Pedri 57).

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