Suarez sparks Barcelona comeback win at Real Sociedad with brace, assist
Barcelona produced a stunning second-half performance to come from two goals down to beat Real Sociedad 4-2 on Sunday, ending a 10-year wait for a win at Anoeta in La Liga.
Barca's last win in the league in San Sebastian came in 2007, and they looked set for another defeat when Willian Jose and Juanmi gave the hosts a deserved two-goal advantage in the first half.
Paulinho pulled one back before the break, though, and Ernesto Valverde's side took over in the second half. Luis Suarez scored a brilliant brace to edge them in front before Lionel Messi wrapped things up with a fine free kick.
There's a long list of positives for Barca, so let's try to keep it brief: the Anoeta "curse" is over; they're 29 games unbeaten in all competitions, nine points clear of Atletico Madrid, 11 points clear of Valencia and 19 points clear of Real Madrid; Suarez is in great form; Thomas Vermaelen is proving everyone wrong; Paulinho keeps on scoring; Messi is Messi.
Valverde will be happy with his team's reaction, but there will be plenty to mull over after a poor opening half-hour. Barca found themselves 2-0 down, but they could have been even further behind. Their response here was brilliant, but that won't always be the case, and they will have to make sure it isn't a situation that repeats itself.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Valverde got his tactics wrong at the beginning of the game, with the decision to start Paulinho and Andre Gomes in midfield backfiring. But he was once again able to tweak things, enabling his side to produce a memorable comeback.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 6 -- Not at fault for either of the home side's goals, with Willian Jose's header bouncing in off the bar and Juanmi's strike heavily deflected. Made one good save from Sergio Canales to stop Barca being even further behind at the break.
DF Sergi Roberto, 7 -- Questionable in defence in the first half but grew into the game after the break. Such a threat when he's carrying the ball forward, as he did in the buildup to Suarez's equaliser.
DF Gerard Pique, 7 -- Came through a tough opening to produce another decent performance. Drove forward when he could and kept La Real out in the second half.
DF Thomas Vermaelen, 8 -- Started the game well, with two excellent challenges. However, could have been more aware of the danger posed by Juanmi in the buildup to La Real's second goal. His second-half performance was flawless, though, including a headed assist for Suarez's second goal.
DF Jordi Alba, 6 -- An interesting battle on the left flank against La Real's impressive young right-back Alvaro Odriozola meant he couldn't join in the attacks as much as he has done in other games.
MF Sergio Busquets, 6 -- La Real's early pressing and the weather made it a tough night for the midfielder, who gave the ball away a few times.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 6 -- Like Busquets, was a victim of the wet conditions and the home side's pressure. Made a number of good passes and never stopped running, but not his best performance.
MF Paulinho, 6 -- Scored his eighth goal of the season to get Barca back into the game but struggled out on the right when he's used to playing more centrally. Could have done more to track Willian Jose for the opening goal.
MF Andres Gomes, 5 -- The surprise inclusion in Valverde's side, taking Andres Iniesta's place in the side. Was a passenger in the first half, though, as La Real poured the pressure on. Didn't improve after the break and was eventually taken off.
FW Lionel Messi, 8 -- Scored a stunning free kick to seal the win and take his tally to 17 league goals this season. Also, set up Suarez's equaliser. Even when not at his very best, for whatever reason, he's still better than 95 percent of the players on the pitch.
FW Luis Suarez, 9 -- Looked sharp early on and did well to find space and set up Paulinho's goal to get Barca back into the game. Took his game to another level in the second half. Scored two brilliant goals, taking his tally to eight in his past six league games and 13 in total in La Liga.
FW Ousmane Dembele, 6 -- Came on as the tide turned in Barca's favour and was more focused on his defensive duties.
DF Lucas Digne, NR -- A late introduction to support Alba on the left.
MF Denis Suarez, NR -- Came on in the final minute for namesake Luis.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.