Lewan-dos-ski: Barcelona star nabs birthday brace as Ansu shines in Xavi’s lineup

Robert Lewandowski scored twice and had an assist on his 34th birthday as Barcelona earned a 4-1 win at Real Sociedad on Sunday.

It was Barcelona’s first win of the new LaLiga season, with Ansu Fati coming off the bench in the second half to take charge of the match with two assists and a goal.

Polish striker Lewandowski opened the scoring in the first minute of the game, his first LaLiga goal since moving from Bayern Munich. Alexander Isak equalised five minutes later after latching on to a pass from David Silva.

Barca struggled to break the deadlock until coach Xavi Hernandez sent on Raphinha and Ansu in the 64th minute. Ousmane Dembele scored in the 66th minute with Lewandowski adding his second two minutes later. It was then Ansu’s turn in the 79th minute to nab a goal and close out the game.

Here are the main talking points, player ratings, and more from Barcelona’s emphatic win.

Report: Barcelona beats Real Sociedad | LaLiga table | Upcoming fixtures

JUMP TO: Player ratings | Best/worst performers | Highlights and notable moments | Post-match quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures

Rapid reaction

1. Lewandowski celebrates 34th in style

Robert Lewandowski, a €45 million summer signing from Bayern Munich, opened the scoring after just 49 seconds, turning home after good work from Pedri and Alejandro Balde to register his first goal for his new club.

La Real equalised soon after through a deflected Alexander Isak effort after Frenkie de Jong, standing in for the suspended Sergio Busquets, had lost the ball in midfield.

The two sides then traded blows in an even contest before Xavi Hernandez’s substitutes swung the fixture in Barca’s favour.

Ousmane Dembele continued his fine preseason form to restore Barca’s lead, driving in to the bottom corner after a sublime back-heel from substitute Ansu Fati.

Dembele’s goal kicked off a sensational last 25 minutes from Barca, with Lewandowski adding his second minutes later and the Polish striker then produced a brilliantly improvised pass to set up Ansu for the fourth.

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2. Ansu steals show in Xavi’s experimental XI

After a drab goalless draw at home to Rayo Vallecano in the opening fixture of the season, Xavi decided to experiment at Anoeta.

Youngster Balde came in for Jordi Alba to play as a left wing-back, with Ousmane Dembele on the other side, while Ferran Torres made his first start of the season in awkward midfield four with Pedri, Gavi and De Jong.

It was a glimpse of changing times at Barcelona and was the first league game since December 2020 in which none of the club’s captains — Busquets, Alba, Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto — had not started. It didn’t quite work, though, so after an hour Xavi showed off Barca’s newfound depth following heavy investment this summer.

Raphinha, a €55m signing from Leeds United, was introduced, but it was an academy graduate in Ansu who stole the show. The 19-year-old made an immediate impact, setting up goals for Dembele and Lewandowski before scoring his first of the new season in the 79th minute.

For all the money Barca have spent, their most important players, with an honourable mention for Lewandowski and Dembele, may just be two that they already had: Ansu and Pedri.

3. ‘La Real’ flounder after strong start

Imanol Alguacil will wonder how his side lost 4-1.

For an hour, they more than matched Barcelona, quickly recovering from conceding within the first minute to not only level but also have the better chances to lead by half-time.

Only an outstanding save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen denied David Silva. The German goalkeeper made two more fine stops, both from Mikel Merino, and the home side had a goal ruled out for offside.

La Real will take the positives, though. In Silva, Merino, Takefusa Kubo, Martin Zubimendi and Brais Mendez, they have a really productive midfield feeding the impressive Isak, who netted for the first time since April here.

Player ratings

Barcelona: Ter Stegen 8; Araujo 6, Christensen 7, Eric Garcia 6, Balde 7; De Jong 5, Pedri 7, Gavi 6; Dembele 7, Lewandowski 8, Torres 6

Subs: Ansu 8, Raphinha 6, Alba 6

Real Sociedad: Remiro 6; Eustondo 6, Zubeldia 6, Le Normand 6, Munoz 6; Zubimendi 6, Brais Mendez 6, Merino 7, Silva 7, Kubo 6; Isak 7

Subs: Cho 6, Turrientes 6, Navarro 6

Best and worst performers

BEST: Ansu Fati

Lewandowski’s goals and Ter Stegen’s saves ensured Barca picked up three points for the first time this season but without Ansu’s explosive impact off the bench the Catalans may not have found a way through in the second half.

WORST: Frenkie de Jong

The Dutch midfielder had an evening to forget, losing the ball in the buildup to La Real‘s goal and struggling to fill in for Busquets. His first-half performance was the symptom of a disjointed Barca, though, and he improved as the game developed.

Highlights and notable moments

That’s one way to celebrate a 34th birthday. ¡Feliz cumpleaños to Lewandowski!

And the birthday boy may think about getting Ansu a present as well.

That’s quite the comparison there…

After the match: What the managers, players said

“It was a difficult game, it always is when you come here. We play with more patience, like in the second half, we’re much better. We lacked that in the first half. We spoke at the break about attacking the space better, that is what we needed to do. We deserved to win.” — Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez

“We were basically playing with five or six forwards. It is all about risks and how many you need to take.” — Xavi on his lineup decisions

Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)

  • Lewandowski’s goal at 46 seconds is Barcelona’s fastest in all competitions since Andres Iniesta scored after 43 seconds vs. Recreativo in LaLiga on April 11, 2009.

  • Lewandowski did not record his first career multi-goal game with Bayern Munich until his 11th match played in 2014-15.

  • Ansu Fati is the 11th different teenager with a multi-assist game in LaLiga since 2010-11. He is the fourth to do it as a substitute.

Up next

Barcelona: After hosting a curiously timed friendly against familiar face Pep Guardiola and Manchester City on Wednesday, they welcome Real Valladolid on Aug. 28.

Real Sociedad: They travel to Elche on Saturday.

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