(Reuters) – Robert Lewandowski scored a brace as Barcelona cruised to a 4-1 victory at Real Sociedad on Sunday, their first win of the new LaLiga season.
Spanish teenage sensation Ansu Fati, who has been struggling to recover after a series of knee surgeries to repair a November 2020 injury to his left knee, came off the bench in the second half and took charge of the proceedings with two assists and a goal.
The Polish striker scored his first goal in competition for Barcelona when he opened the scoring in the first minute, rifling in a shot after a great pass from Alejandro Balde inside the penalty area.
But Alexander Isak equalised five minutes later after latching onto a pass from David Silva.
Barca struggled to break the deadlock until coach Xavi Hernandez sent on Raphinha and Fati in the 64th minute, with both proving crucial to Barca’s success.
First, Fati assisted Ousmane Dembele with a brilliant heel pass after a fine piece of individual play from Raphinha.
Than Fati finished off a beautiful team effort to assist Lewandowski for Barca’s third.
Barca new signing returned the favour 10 minutes later, enabling 19-year-old Fati to score Barca’s fourth to wrap up the points in a game that Barca delivered what was expected from them after a host of strong signings this summer.
“We took a risk with the substitutions as we needed to be aggressive and I’m glad that it worked,” coach Xavi Hernandez told Movistar Plus.
“With Raphinha and Fati we played almost with five players up front, but we talked in the locker room during halftime about how we needed to attack more within the spaces.
“Last week (a goalless home draw against lowly Rayo Vallecano) was a major disappointment, but this victory strengthens us because it’s about insisting and having the will to overcome challenges”.
It was also a chance for redemption for Fati, who inherited Barcelona’s number 10 jersey from Lionel Messi when the Argentine left for Paris St Germain.
Fati has been plagued by injuries since bursting onto the scene for Barcelona at the age of 16 when he became the second-youngest player in LaLiga history, after coming through the youth system at the Catalan club.
He quickly established himself as one of the most exciting young talents in the world, becoming the youngest player to score in the Champions League as well as the youngest to score for Spain.
(Reporting by Fernando Kallas; Editing by Hugh Lawson)