The Basques remained in ten before the interval, the French unlocked it at the beginning of the second half: the coach celebrated his birthday with a victory
Before blowing out the candles, Xavi Hernandez wanted a present from his boys. The coach’s wish was fulfilled and, on his 43rd birthday, Busquets and his companions dragged Barcelona to the Copa del Rey semifinals. The match at the Camp Nou against Real Sociedad ended 1-0: Dembelé’s goal was decisive, but above all the expulsion of Brais Mendez, who left the blue-and-whites down to ten men even before the break.
Xavi chooses the formation that beat Real Madrid in the Super Cup: De Jong is in midfield with Pedri and Busquets, while Gavi advances in the trident with Lewa and Dembelé. First in the league and thrilled by the triumph in Riyadh, the Catalans want to take a step forward in the Copa del Rey as well. Opposite, however, is Real Sociedad in the best shape in history, back from 9 consecutive victories. Barça starts well and gives a show for half an hour. Imanol tries to annihilate the Blaugrana counterattacks by focusing strongly on high pressing, Xavi responds by ordering Ter Stegen to step over the lines. The German goalkeeper doesn’t have to repeat it twice: his throws are bread for the teeth of the unleashed Dembelé, who splits the opposing defense and puts in a couple of interesting balls. Lewandowski scores but the referee cancels everything for offside, Kubo almost takes the lead in Real’s first real action. It was still 0-0 at the interval, but the visitors were down to ten thanks to Brais Mendez’s 37th-minute ram on Busquets. Initially the midfielder is booked but then, after the intervention of the Var, he ends up straight in the shower.
Back on the pitch, Barcelona took advantage of their opponents’ numerical inferiority. Gavi and Koundé are immediately dangerous, in the 52nd minute Dembelé finds the deserved (on a personal level, but also as a team) goal to make it 1-0 from Koundé’s pocket. Through pass, control to follow, entry into the area and shot at the near post that Remiro is unable to reject. Xavi asks for intensity but his scores begin to wane. Sorloth devours the 1-1 and Gavi hits the crossbar, in the final the two goalkeepers are exalted: Remiro denies Lewandowski a double, Ter Stegen gives the ball to the opponents but then lowers the shutter on a shot by Navarro. The match ends 1-0 and, for Xavi, it’s a double celebration.
January 25, 2023 (change January 25, 2023 | 23:12)
© breaking latest news