The hangover of losing against the arch-rivals Real Madrid was not yet over as the defending champions of La Liga along with their club legend, Lionel Messi, met Real Sociedad on Saturday. Sociedad, so far in this season, had been impressive. They have earned the tag to be a fighting unit – they have tested the best in business and not so long ago Barcelona experienced it.

The clash would not be an easy one for the Catalans, and as each minute passed, Quique Setien realized, it is not easy out there.

Martin Braithwaite was twice denied by goalkeeper Alex Remiro early on and then blocked a close-range Messi shot. Again, Remiro got down to impressively tip away an Ivan Rakitic drive, before Gerard Pique headed straight at him. Messi did create a few chances and some of his shots went wide. But otherwise, he and Barcelona were a team, struggling to regain their lost mojo.

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La Real threatened on the counter and more often left Barcelona at bay. Their midfield and back looked shaky, while at the top, the frontline lacked the cutting edge to get past a determined Remiro and La Real defenders.

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At the center of the park, Sociedad looked good if not better – In the 75th minute, Barca lost the ball in and Martin Odegaard released Isak on the left. He had space and time to pick his spot but smashed wide. Just before that, the Barca provided Oyarzabal enough space and time to connect with a strike from 20 yards, but he blasted wide.

Semendo was worked over by Isak, Merino surged up the field and offloaded to Monreal, Llorente made way or Zubeldia, Barrenetxea cut inside out from the left to keep the left edge busy and as usual, Remiro was at his best – Barcelona was searching for answers.

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Messi had a lucky break. While battling to gain possession over the ball against Llorente, Messi stamped him, which should have been a red card and suspension on offer. But no such things happened. It was a tough challenge and the lack of a strong action surprised everyone.

Then Barcelona were awarded a penalty. VAR confirmed that the ball struck Le Normand on the arm as he attempts to clear a cross from Arturo Vidal. But what VAR missed: Vidal was clearly in an offside position.

Messi scored from the penalty spot. Messi came into the contest having failed to score in six of his last seven games, but VAR helped him.

A lucky escape for the below-par Messi and Barcelona!