Barcelona are through to the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey after a 1-0 win against 10-man Real Sociedad at Camp Nou.
The hosts were unable to find the breakthrough in the first half despite dominating, but were handed an advantage when Brais Mendez was sent off in the 40th minute.
Ousmane Dembele gave the Blaugrana the lead early in the second half after being played through by Jules Kounde, finishing powerfully past Alex Remiro.
The contest between LaLiga’s first and third-placed teams was rarely as close as the scoreline suggested until a late push from Sociedad, and Xavi’s men march on looking to add another trophy to their recent Supercopa de Espana success.
INTO THE COPA DEL REY SEMIFINALS! pic.twitter.com/zzReHn6Agr
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 25, 2023
Barca started brightly and had the ball in the net in the 11th minute, but Robert Lewandowski’s goal-bound strike deflected off the offside Frenkie de Jong on its way in.
The dangerous Dembele threatened shortly after when a determined run ended with a curled effort just wide of the left-hand post, while Takefusa Kubo struck the crossbar just before the half-hour with the visitors’ first attempt.
There were borderline ironic cheers before half-time from the home fans as referee Gil Manzano, who sent off Lewandowski earlier in the season, handed a red card to La Real’s Mendez when a VAR review showed the midfielder had caught Sergio Busquets on the ankle with his studs.
Dembele opened the scoring in the 52nd minute when he raced onto a pass down the right channel from Kounde, before firing his shot past Remiro at his near post.
La Real should have been level on the hour when Alexander Sorloth somehow turned Kubo’s cross over the bar from close range, while Gavi hit the woodwork at the other end.
One goal was enough to seal Barca’s passage to the final four, though, thanks to late Marc-Andre ter Stegen saves to keep out Roberto Navarro from a one-on-one and then Jon Ander Olasagasti’s powerful drive.
What does it mean? Barca find a way despite profligacy
It seems strange to say about a team that had Lewandowski in it, but the one thing eluding Barcelona for much of the game was composure in the final third.
They had 20 shots overall, hitting the target six times, but seemed to struggle to break down their opponents more after gaining a man advantage.
It did not matter in the end as they claimed the win thanks to yet another clean sheet, though that was also reliant on Sorloth’s remarkable miss and Ter Stegen’s late saves.
Dembele shines again
It was another day when Dembele proved he can be a key player of this Barca side, building on his stellar season so far.
As well as scoring the winner, the France international produced three key passes, more than any other player, and put four open play crosses into the box.
5 – LaLiga players to reach double figures for both goals and assists since 2022 in all competitions:
Vinícius Júnior (21 goals,14 assists).
OUSMANE DEMBÉLÉ (10, 18)
José Luis Morales (17, 11)
Rodrygo Goes (15, 12)
Samuel Chukwueze (10, 10)
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 25, 2023
Toothless Sociedad need adversity to threaten
It was an impressive effort from Imanol Alguacil’s men after going a man down, but prior to Mendez’s dismissal, they did not seem up to the task of troubling their hosts.
They managed just one shot before then, which was Kubo’s strike against the bar, finishing the game with seven shots at goal, testing Ter Stegen just twice.
Key Opta Facts:
– Barcelona have progressed from 15 of their 17 ties against Real Sociedad in the Copa del Rey (three finals included), falling only in 1968-1969 and 1979-1980 (both in the last 16).
– Sergio Busquets made his 75th appearance in the Copa del Rey, equalling Josep Samitier for the second-most games with Barcelona in the competition. Only Lionel Messi (80) is above him.
– Since the 2006-2007 season, Barcelona have progressed to the Copa del Rey semi-finals 14 times out of 17, failing only in 2009-2010, 2019-2020 and 2021-2022.
– Barcelona are unbeaten in their last 12 games in all competitions (W10 D2), which is their best streak since January-April 2022 (15 – W11 D4).
– Dembele (eight goals, seven assists) has been involved in 15 goals with Barcelona in all competitions this season, already equalling his record of last season (15 – two goals, 13 assists). Only Lewandowski (27 – 22 goals and five assists) has been involved in more goals than France winger for Barca in 2022-2023.
It is back to LaLiga action at the weekend as Barcelona travel to Girona on Saturday, while Real Sociedad face Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.
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