Barcelona kept pace with league leaders Atletico Madrid with a commanding 6-1 victory over Real Sociedad on Sunday night at the Reale Arena in San Sebastian, a result that will have delighted Blaugrana fans and brought up memories of some of the great sides of the past.
Sergino Dest and Lionel Messi each bagged braces, while Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembeleadded goals in what was a very comprehensive performance from the visitors to keep them within four points of the Colchoneros in the LaLiga Santander table.
Ronald Koeman went with his strongest possible starting XI, which meant starts for Pedri in midfield and Oscar Mingueza in defence, while it was still too premature for centre-backRonald Araujo to re-join the starting XI.
Barcelona came out controlling matters, but the first big chance went for Real Sociedad as Alexander Isak got the better of Frenkie de Jong, but the Swedish striker was unable to find a way past Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
A minute after a Dest effort was tipped onto the crossbar by Real Sociedad No. 1 Alex Remiro, Griezmann would break the deadlock and hand his side a 1-0 advantage. Messi played to Jordi Alba on the left, who crossed for Dembele and after the Frenchman’s shot was blocked, Griezmann was there to clean things up and score.
Barcelona were buoyed by the Griezmann goal and tacked another on the scoreboard right before the half time break, with Messi filtering a pass to Dest on the right and the United States international hammering a shot home to make it a 2-0 affair.
It was the first ever LaLiga goal for Dest and just the third by a United States international in the Spanish top-flight, and soon enough Dest became the outright leader in goals by US players in LaLiga to give Barcelona a 3-0 lead. Some excellent work from a tightrope-walking Alba ended with a cross that saw Merquelanz‘s attempted clearance striking the leg of Dest and caroming into net.
Barcelona were flying and Messi added his name to the scoresheet just minutes later by collecting a floated ball over the top from Sergio Busquets and toe-poking past Remiro.
Koeman took advantage of the comfortable lead to make some changes, with Ilaix on for Pedri and Araujo for Busquets. That was then followed by Dembele making it 5-0 with an excellent solo run that was punctuated by a good finish.
Real Sociedad would get a late consolation goal to avoid the goose egg, with Ander Barrenetxea firing in a rocket to make it 5-1, but the last laugh would belong to Messi and Barcelona.
Substitute Riqui Puig, who had come on for Griezmann, was part of a slickly-played triangle with Alba and Messi that ended with the Argentine one-timing in a cut-back pass from the left-back to complete the 6-1 scoreline.
1.- Real Sociedad: Remiro, Guorosabel (Barrenetxea, min. 61), Le Normand, Zubeldia (Sagnan, min. 83), Merquelanz, Zubimendi (Carlos Fernandez, min. 73), Guevara, Merino, Portu (Januzaj, min. 61), Oyarzabal, Isak (Bautista, min. 83).
6.- Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Dest (Trincao, min. 84), Mingueza, Lenglet, Alba, De Jong, Busquets (Araujo, min. 67), Pedri (Ilaix, min. 68), Messi, Dembele (Braithwaite, min. 79), Griezmann (Riqui Puig, min. 85).
Goals: 0-1, min. 36: Griezmann; 0-2, min. 44: Dest; 0-3, min. 53: Dest; 0-4, min. 56: Messi; 0-5, min. 71: Dembele; 1-5, min. 77: Barrenetxea; 1-6, min. 89: Messi
Referee: Munuera Montero (Andalusia).
Yellow cards: Zubimendi (Min. 9) for Real Sociedad, Busquets (Min. 2h7) for Barcelona, Zubeldia (Min. 79) for Real Sociedad, Braithwaite (Min. 88) for Barcelona, Carlos Fernandez (Min. 94) for Real Sociedad
Red cards: None