Happy birthday, Robert Lewandowski.
Barcelona swept aside Real Sociedad with a stunning display of attacking prowess, and the Polish striker bagged a brace on his 34th birthday. He also claimed a jaw dropping assist for Ansu Fati to score his goal, a move that brought me jumping out of my seat. Something which happened several times, in fact, tonight. Barcelona were just that good.
Scoring after just 48 seconds, Lewandowski set an early pace after great work down the left from Alejandro Balde. However, Barça didn’t have it all their own way and, just five minutes later, La Real were level. The Blaugrana would make heavy weather of it for the next hour, the game slowing down into a frustrating, grinding stalemate.
On the hour mark, though, Xavi Hernandez made an inspired substitution. Ansu Fati entered the fray and positively electrified the stadium. Now, everything clicked into place. All of a sudden, Barcelona just looked right.
Making an almost immediate impact, he flicked a gorgeous back heel into the path of an oncoming Ousmane Dembele to lash the ball home, putting the Catalan giants 2-1 up. Just two minutes later, Ansu Fati was at it again, passing to Lewandowski for the striker to score his second. Watch closely, and you’ll see Ansu Fati already smiling a bright, toothy grin before even Lewy hits the ball into the net, so sure was he that it was going to be a goal. It was a glorious, joyful thing to behold, and suggests the players are already very much enjoying themselves. Barcelona looked an altogether different team now, playing exciting, attacking football that was a joy to watch.
Ansu Fati got his reward in the shape of a goal, stroking home that aforementioned, beautiful Lewandowski back heel that could serve as a summation of just how good Barça were tonight. A scintillating, resounding victory.
Hold on tight, Cules. We have lift off.