First Division - Day 31

Barcelona 2 - Real Sociedad 1

Barcelona: Víctor Valdés; Gabri, Andersson, Frank De Boer, Sorín; Overmars (Rochemback 75'), Motta, Riquelme (Nano 71'), Cocu (Gerard 63'); Saviola, Kluivert. 4-4-2.
Real Sociedad:
Westerveld; López Rekarte, Kvarme, Jauregi, Aranzábal; Xabi Alonso, Aranburu (Boris 66'); Karpin, Nihat, De Pedro (Gabilondo 71'); Kovacevic (De Paula 66'). 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Barcelona: Víctor Valdés, Andersson, Cocu, Riquelme, Saviola for Bonano, Puyol, Mendieta, Xavi, Luis Enrique / Real: No change.

1-0. 13. Saviola. Ran on to Riquelme through ball to round defender and score.
2-0. 25. Kluivert. Outjumped defence to head Overmars cross into top corner of net.
2-1. 81. Nihat. Free kick from inside semi-circle which deflected in off wall.

Second placed Real Sociedad were beaten 2-1 by Barcelona and now find themselves four points adrift of leaders Real Madrid. Their opponents were forced to win though after being knocked out of the Champions League by Juventus midweek, their only real chance now of keeping up their 100% appearance in European competitions being to take the one remaining UEFA cup spot which is still up for grabs, and they came out in determined fashion.

Antic had to make several changes to his side, Xavi having finally undergone an operation on his troublesome shoulder and Puyol and Luis Enrique out injured, and the manager also decided to bring back under 21 goalkeeper Víctor Valdés in place of Bonano. Riquelme also got a place in the starting line up, and he took advantage to set up his compatriot Saviola for the opening goal early on. A few minutes later Kluivert silenced his critics, rising above the Real defence to head Overmars' cross past Westerveld, and it appeared they were on their way to a win.

This was not the Real Sociedad side who had lost so often in recent years in the Nou Camp though, and they came back strongly. Nihat thought he should have had a penalty when De Boer brought him down, and after the break De Paula came on for a limping Kovacevic and almost scored. Riquelme dallied too long and wasted a chance at the other end, but otherwise the visitors were on top, and soon after Sorín kept out an effort from Karpin, Nihat pulled one back with a free kick which took a deflection off Kluivert. The last few minutes were frantic, with Víctor saving a last minute effort from Xabi Alonso, but Barça held on for the win which takes them to within two points of that sixth spot, albeit that they stay in twelfth position.