Liga - Barcelona youngsters beat Sociedad

Sat, 04 Feb 22:57:00 2012

Barcelona were not at their brilliant best but still did enough to see off Real Sociedad 2-1 in their Liga clash at Camp Nou.

Barcelona's players celebrate Lionel Messi's (10) goal against Real Sociedad during their Spanish first division soccer match at the Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona, February 4, 2012 - 0

Manager Pep Guardiola, with an eye on injuries and perhaps the midweek Copa del Rey semi-final second leg against Valencia, fielded a young midfield including Jonathon Dos Santos, Cristian Tello, Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas.

But the decision appeared to be vindicated when Barcelona struck early against their struggling opponents through Tello's cool ninth-minute finish.

Barcelona created a surfeit of chances only to waste them, with Lionel Messi particularly culpable.

The second goal did not come despite the typical domination of possession, and Sociedad began to press forward in the hopes of snatching an equaliser.

That looked to be beyond them when Messi finally did score with a deft finish from Dani Alves's cross after 72 minutes - only for Carlos Vela, on loan from Arsenal, to immediately pull one back at the other end.

It set up a tense finale, but Barcelona held on to claim all three points and close back to within seven points of league leaders Real Madrid, who had earlier ground out a 1-0 victory away at Getafe.

Much of the focus in the match was on Messi, who had been below par in midweek against Valencia, and despite a telling contribution of a goal and an assist, was not on top form tonight.

He missed a simple looking chance after just four minutes from close range after Fabregas's run ended with the ball deflecting straight into the Argentine's path.

Not long after, his interplay with Thiago put him clean through, only to give the impressive Sociedad keeper Claudio Bravo the chance to save.

In the second half there were two more more gilt-edged chances which went begging, with Tello picking him out just before the hour only for Messi to shoot tamely, while four minutes later he somehow failed to get his shot away until it was far too late having rounded the keeper and looked sure to score.

But the star of the show was the 20-year-old Tello, who played on the left-hand side of a three-man attack and caused chaos down the flank on his first start for the club in La Liga.

His finish showed real composure, and his pace was a constant worry for Carlos Martinez.

Sociedad had their chances, with Antoine Griezmann testing Victor Valdes after just five minutes. The Frenchman should have done better after the visitors went route one in the second half, but having got himself past the defence, fired straight at Valdes.

The second goal, which demonstrated Barcelona at their fluent best, should have settled the contest, but Vela and Griezmann caught the champions napping to reduce the deficit immediately.

Barcelona will be relieved to seal the victory after a run of three consecutive draws in all competitions, but were hit by a possible injury blow to Sergio Busquets late on.

Busquets, who only came on after 76 minutes, jarred his knee in a tackle and had to be substituted off again just eight minutes later.

The signs were, however, that Guardiola has some promising young replacements waiting to step into the breach should the injury rule him out over the next matches.

Mark Patterson - on Twitter @Mark_Eurosport / Eurosport

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