MADRID: Barcelona reignited their La Liga title push on Wednesday when they came back from a goal down to defeat Real Sociedad 2-1, with veteran defender and goal scorer Jordi Alba claiming it was the team’s “best game of the season”.
The win allowed Barcelona to move six points off the top of the table whereas defeat meant Sociedad lost their spot as leaders to be replaced by Atletico Madrid.
However, Barca did it the hard way.
Sociedad, without a point at Barcelona in 25 years, took the lead through Willian Jose in the 26th minute.
Spanish international Alba levelled four minutes later with Frenkie de Jong adding the second just before the break.
“It was our best game of the season. We came into it knowing very well what we had to do,” said left-back Alba.
“We put pressure on them, especially in the first half.
“Tonight I saw a very good Barca. We are happy with the attitude. We knew how to suffer. This should give us more confidence for the rest of La Liga as there are a lot of games left.”
Under-siege Barca coach Ronald Koeman played in the team which last yielded a home point to Sociedad in 1995.
The Dutchman was fearing the worst when Willian Jose scored with his right foot from close range after a Portu corner.
Alba’s equaliser arrived on the half-hour mark after a fine interchange of passes between Antoine Griezmann and Pedri.
French star Griezmann hit the bar six minutes later after taking the ball past Sociedad keeper Alex Remiro.
De Jong then gave Barca a 42nd-minute lead with a right-foot drive for his first goal since February.
The goal, however, was only allowed after a VAR consultation for a possible offside.
Griezmann had back-to-back chances to increase the lead early in the second period.
Lionel Messi required treatment on a calf injury as the second half wound down before Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen denied Willian Jose from long range and then Alexander Isak.
On Tuesday, Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane hailed Karim Benzema as the best centre-forward in French history after his match-winning double against Athletic Bilbao put them into third place, level on points with Atletico and Sociedad.
Bilbao’s Ander Capa had cancelled out Toni Kroos’s thumping strike before Benzema, 32, struck twice late on, heading home a cross with 16 minutes remaining and finishing clinically in stoppage time from Luka Modric‘s pass.
Afterwards Zidane had no hesitation in declaring Benzema as France’s best ever centre-forward, putting him at the top of a list that includes Thierry Henry, Kylian Mbappe, Jean-Pierre Papin and Just Fontaine.
“For me, he’s the best — it’s very clear,” said Zidane, the French midfield legend who won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 with Les Bleus.
“He’s proved it — he’s played at Real Madrid for a very long time, he has more than 500 appearances, all his goals… his record, all he’s accomplished here speaks for itself,” Zidane added.