Suarez, Messi lead Barcelona to 4-2 comeback win at Sociedad
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona has broken its curse at Anoeta Stadium.
Luis Suarez scored twice before Lionel Messi completed Barcelona’s 4-2 comeback win at Real Sociedad on Sunday, giving the Catalan club its first league win at the Basque Country team since 2007.
Barcelona was behind by two goals when Suarez set up Paulinho before halftime. The Uruguayan then scored twice in the second half to put the visitors ahead as heavy rain fell over the northern city of San Sebastian.
Messi secured the three points when he scored from a free kick with five minutes remaining.
Barcelona reached the halfway point of the league season unbeaten and with a nine-point lead over second-place Atletico Madrid. Valencia trails by 11, and defending champion Real Madrid faces a massive 19-point deficit with a game in hand.
”Our bad run here in the league is finally over,” Suarez said. ”This is the best way to finish the first half of the season, winning and doing so by turning around a match we were losing.”
The fightback ended Barcelona’s run of five losses and two draws in La Liga at Sociedad, a team that has consistently played at its best against the powerhouse.
Barcelona also extended its undefeated streak across all competitions this season to 29 straight games since losing the Spanish Super Cup to Madrid in August.
”What can I say? The numbers speak for themselves. We are happy with the season we are having, after the difficult start we had,” said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde. ”Now we have the second half of the season. We don’t rule out our rivals, but we only need to worry about what we will do. That’s the advantage of being in the lead.”
Sociedad got off to an ideal start in the 11th when Xabi Prieto swung in a long cross from the left to Willian Jose, who headed the ball off the turf and over the reach of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Sociedad went forward in attack and got a second goal when Juanmi Jimenez was played clear by Sergio Canales in the 31st. His strike took a deflection off Sergi Roberto to leave Ter Stegen too out of position to try to make a save.
But Barcelona pulled one back against the flow of play in the 39th when Paulinho pushed forward from midfield and was alone to tap in Suarez’s pass after Jordi Alba had met his run behind the defense.
Suarez leveled the score at 2-2 five minutes after halftime when he scored with an exquisite single touch of his right boot after a pass by Messi from near the corner of the box.
Suarez completed the turnaround in the 71st when Thomas Vermaelen jumped highest to head the ball forward where Suarez was alone to fire a right-footed strike past goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli.
Rulli was again left flatfooted when Messi dipped his free kick over the defensive barrier and inside the post.
Messi took his league-leading tally to 17 goals. Suarez has 13.
Sevilla’s winless streak reached five straight rounds after losing 1-0 at Alaves.
It was Sevilla’s second consecutive loss in the league under Vincenzo Montella, the Italian coach who replaced the fired Eduardo Berizzo late last month.
”We are very disappointed. I am sorry for the result,” Montella said. ”We can see some improvement, but in other aspects we still have a lot of work to do.”
Sevilla was left in sixth place after Villarreal moved ahead in the standings on Saturday.
Manu Garcia scored Alaves’ winner in the 52nd after a poorly cleared corner kick.
Alaves moved out of the relegation zone after its fourth win in six rounds since the arrival of manager Abelardo Fernandez.
ALLEGED RACIAL ABUSE
Celta’s 1-0 win at Levante from Pione Sisto’s first-half goal was marred by an alleged incident of racial abuse between players.
Levante midfielder Jefferson Lerma accused Celta Vigo striker Iago Aspas of using a racist slur to insult him during the match.
Aspas, who is a Spain international, denies racially abusing Lerma.
Espanyol drew 1-1 at home with Athletic Bilbao a day after coach Quique Sanchez Flores quashed speculation of a move to struggling Premier League team Stoke.
Sanchez Flores said on Saturday that he ”is and will be Espanyol’s coach” amid rumors of his possible departure for England.