Four days after affirming their European credentials by toppling Manchester City, Barcelona slumped to a stinging 3-1 loss at Real Sociedad on Saturday to relinquish their provisional lead in La Liga to Real Madrid, who brushed aside Elche 3-0 at home.
Gareth Bale scored a blistering long-range strike to help Real bag the three points that Barca were unable to match with a win as they were overrun by Sociedad’s dynamic attack led by forwards Antoine Griezmann and Carlos Vela.
Barcelona’s defeat confirmed the change in course in the league title race over the past two months, leaving Real in command and waiting to see if Atletico Madrid can keep up after their clash against CA Osasuna yesterday. After starting the season with 13 wins and a draw, Barcelona have dropped points in four of their past seven Liga games.
Barcelona coach Gerard Martino shuffled his lineup from Tuesday’s Champions League victory at City and tried to reinforce his defense by playing with two holding midfielders in Sergio Busquets and Alex Song.
However, the move backfired when Song scored an own-goal in the 32nd minute in the first of several defensive lapses that doomed them.
Lionel Messi equalized in the 36th, only for Griezmann to restore the hosts’ advantage after an error by defender Marc Bartra in the 54th, before setting up David Zurutuza in the 59th.
The loss left Barcelona three points behind their archrivals, marking the first time they have trailed the Madrid side this season. The last time Barcelona lost a game by more than one goal was in May last year, when they were routed a 3-0 defeat by Bayern Munich.
In other Liga action on Saturday, RC Celta de Vigo fought back to salvage a 1-1 draw at home against 10-man Getafe to leave the visitors winless in the past 10 rounds, while Malaga drew 0-0 at UD Almeria.