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LA LIGA

“This puts us in our place,” as defeat catches up with Barcelona at last

Catalans suffer first Liga loss after memorable comeback by Real Sociedad

Barcelona's Lionel Messi (2nd R) and Barcelona's midfielder Andrés Iniesta (R) react after Real Sociedad scored its third goal. Ampliar foto
Barcelona's Lionel Messi (2nd R) and Barcelona's midfielder Andrés Iniesta (R) react after Real Sociedad scored its third goal.

It had to happen one day. And on Saturday evening in San Sebastián it finally did. Barcelona suffered its first Liga defeat of the season as Real Sociedad authored a memorable comeback at the Anoeta to snatch a last-gasp 3-2 win.

In the opening minutes, the match looked to be heading toward another comfortable victory for the Catalans, which last lost a Liga game in April 2012 (1-2 to Real Madrid). Leo Messi scored in his 10th consecutive game with a typical edge-of-the-area pick-up, dribble and strike to give the visitor the lead after seven minutes. Then Pedro made it two after knocking in a cross from Xavi 18 minutes later.

Although defensively in disarray, Real gradually got going at the other end of the pitch and just before halftime Chori Castro crossed the ball past Víctor Valdés and into the net for 1-2.

It was enough to rattle Barcelona — and doubly so when defender Gerard Piqué was dismissed for a second bookable offense on 56 minutes.

A second Real goal was only a matter of time as Barça’s vital signs seemed to be dwindling, and it arrived from Castro again seven minutes later.

As the match drifted toward the final whistle, a tie seemed to be the safe bet, but more was still to come from Real. In the 91st minute, Imanol Agirretxe made the most of a ball from Carlos Martínez to deliver a 3-2 victory and end Barça’s remarkable start to the season of 18 wins and one tie.

“This puts all of us in our place,” said Tito Vilanova after the match. “Because nothing is easy. You can get that feeling after winning so many matches, that we will win everything and we will go an entire championship without losing — things that people say. And there are many more games to go, and difficult ones.”

The Barcelona coach said he had nothing to blame his players for. “I want to congratulate Real; it was more to their credit than our fault.”

Goalscorer Pedro ruled out that the team, which also tied 2-2 with Málaga in its King’s Cup away leg midweek, had been unsettled by goalkeeper Valdés’s decision not to renew his contract, which is due to expire in June 2014. “We went out with the same enthusiasm,” he said.

New Sevilla coach Unai Emery failed to get his reign off to a winning start on Saturday as his team tied 1-1 at Getafe in a match where all the ideas seemed to have been blown away in the strong winds that howled around the Coliseum. José Antonio Reyes scored first for the Andalusians five minutes before the break, before Adrián Colunga equalized just three minutes later.

Earlier at Los Cármenes, Granada earned a rare home win with a 2-0 victory over a Rayo Vallecano, badly missing Brazilian marksman Léo Baptistão. The goals came from the boot of Rayo’s own Jordi Amat and Recio.

Other results: Osasuna 2-1 Deportivo; Málaga 1-1 Celta Vigo; Espanyol 3-2 Mallorca.