Barcelona finally made a statement of intent in what has been a chaotic season as they came from behind to beat La Liga leaders Real Sociedad 2-1 at home on Wednesday.
Brazilian striker Willian Jose gave the visitors the lead from close range in the 27th minute but Barca came right back at them, levelling four minutes later when Jordi Alba smashed the ball into the top corner with his weaker right foot.
The Catalans took the lead shortly before halftime when Frenkie de Jong arrived into the box and poked home a cross from Alba, initially seeing the goal ruled out for offside but then celebrating when it was awarded after a VAR review.
Real Sociedad, missing David Silva and top scorer Mikel Oyarzabal, failed to rise to the occasion, yet they should have equalised several times, such as when Alexander Isak was thwarted by a fine tackle from Barca’s Pedri and a great save by Marc-Andre ter Stegen from close range.
“It was our best performance of the season, I’m so happy with the attitude the team showed,” said Alba.
“It’s difficult when you don’t have fans in the stadium but we were still really motivated to win the game. Today we saw a great Barca side, one that was ready to fight for every ball.”
A second consecutive victory took Barca up to fifth in La Liga on 20 points after 12 games and knocked Real Sociedad off the top and into second.
Atletico Madrid, who also have 26 points, sneaked up to the summit on goal difference but have one game in hand on Barca and three on Real Sociedad.
Barca produced a commanding performance, especially in the first half, but went behind against the run of play when Sociedad staged an elaborate move following a corner and Willian Jose appeared at the far post to nudge in a cross from Portu.
They quickly got back into the game through Alba’s thumping strike and should have gone ahead when Antoine Griezmann hit the woodwork against the side where he began his career before Martin Braithwaite lifted the ball over the bar with the goal gaping.
They kept at it, though, and were rewarded when Dutch midfielder De Jong scored his first goal of the season.
Griezmann missed an even clearer chance to score in the second half, while Lionel Messi continued to show signs of a lack of sharpness.
Barca faced a nervy ending but pulled off a win that will lift their morale and revitalise their hopes of joining the title race.
Juventus share spoils with Atalanta as Ronaldo squanders penalty
Cristiano Ronaldo had a penalty saved as Juventus were held to yet another Serie A draw in an entertaining encounter with Atalanta which finished 1-1 in Turin on Wednesday.
A stunning strike from Federico Chiesa put the Italian champions in front in the first half, but Remo Freuler’s powerful effort crashed off the bar and in to earn the visitors a deserved point after the break.
Ronaldo spurned a golden chance to put the hosts back in front minutes later, but his tame spot kick was comfortably held by Pierluigi Gollini.
Andrea Pirlo’s side are third with 24 points, six ahead of Atalanta in eighth, and although they remain unbeaten this season, they have drawn half of their 12 league games.
Bayern sink Wolfsburg with Lewandowski double, Leverkusen stay top
Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski scored twice to steer the champions to a 2-1 comeback win over VfL Wolfsburg on Wednesday, keeping them a point behind Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen who crushed Cologne 4-0.
Bayern, who travel to Leverkusen on Saturday, fell behind for the sixth consecutive league game when Maximilian Philipp volleyed home in the fifth minute, but Lewandowski struck either side of the break to give his side their first win in the last three games.
The Poland striker, whose goals this year have helped win five major trophies for Bayern, levelled in first-half stoppage time for his 250th league goal - only the third player after Gerd Mueller and Klaus Fischer to reach that mark in the Bundesliga.
He added another five minutes after the restart following a strong run.
“As a striker, you always have to be selfish,” Lewandowski, in the running to be named FIFA’s best footballer on Thursday, said.
“I have no pressure (regarding the award). I was focused on today’s game. I am just happy to have the chance to win a big honour.”
It was the first loss of the season for Wolfsburg, who had late chances to score, only to be denied by two outstanding Manuel Neuer saves. They dropped to fifth on 21 points, with Bayern in second place on 27, level on points with RB Leipzig.
Bayern have now made sure they will finish 2020 without a single home loss in any competition, the first time they have achieved a calendar year with no home defeat since 1981.
Leverkusen lead the title race on 28 points after thrashing Cologne, early goals from Mitchell Weiser and Moussa Diaby setting them on their way before Patrik Schick and teenager Florian Wirtz struck in the second half to complete the rout.
RB Leipzig are level on 27 points with Bayern after edging past Hoffenheim 1-0 thanks to Yussuf Poulsen’s second-half winner.
PSG hot on Lille's heels with Lorient win
Champions Paris St Germain stayed hot on the heels of Ligue 1 leaders Lille as goals by Kylian Mbappe and Moise Kean earned them a 2-0 home win against 10-man Lorient on Wednesday.
Mbappe, with a penalty, and Kean found the net in the second half after the visitors had Andreaw Gravillon sent off to move up to second on 31 points from 15 games.
They trail Lille, who beat bottom side Dijon 2-0 away earlier, by one point, and are one ahead of third-placed Olympique Lyonnais after they conceded a last-gasp goal in a 2-2 home draw against 10-man Stade Brestois.
Olympique de Marseille, who have two games in hand, lost 2-1 at Stade Rennais after being reduced to 10 men in the first half.
Lille went ahead in the 19th minute when Yusuf Yazici found the back of the net with a low shot from Zeki Celik’s cutback.
They went close to doubling their tally before the break, only for Jonathan Ikone to miss the target with an attempted lob.
Dijon rarely threatened but Lille’s Jose Fonte almost beat his own keeper Mike Maignan with a poor back pass on the hour, keeping the visitors on their toes until Timothy Weah wrapped it up with a half-volley three minutes into stoppage time.
Lyon thought a Memphis Depay penalty and Maxwel Cornet’s goal in the second half would be enough to beat Brest.
Yet the Brittany side, who had Paul Lasne sent off in the 74th, had opened the scoring though Anthony Lopes’s own goal and they snatched a stoppage-time equaliser with a Romain Faivre penalty.
Marseille also finished their game with 10 men after Pape Gueye, who had opened the scoring, was sent off, and Rennes prevailed thanks to goals from Hamari Traore and Adrien Hunou as they snapped the visitors’ six-match winning streak.
Elsewhere, fifth-placed Montpellier, who have 26 points, lost 2-0 at home to mid-table Metz and promoted RC Lens moved up two spots to seventh by beating Monaco 3-0 away.
AC Milan fight back again to salvage draw at Genoa
AC Milan twice came from behind to salvage a 2-2 draw at relegation-battling Genoa on Wednesday and cling on to top spot in Serie A.
Genoa striker Mattia Destro scored twice in the second half but on both occasions the hosts were soon pegged back thanks to goals from Davide Calabria and Pierre Kalulu.
Milan, who came from 2-0 down to draw with Parma on Sunday, lacked fluency in the absence of injured or rested players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Theo Hernandez, Simon Kjaer and Ismael Bennacer.
But the draw kept the Rossoneri top of the Serie A standings with 28 points and continued their unbeaten run in the league this season, although neighbours Inter Milan are just one point behind in second after beating Napoli.
Genoa moved above Torino into 18th place, but they remain three points adrift of safety.
The game was a slow burner until Destro pounced on a Gianluigi Donnarumma parry to tap in from close range and open the floodgates to a goal-filled second half.
Calabria drew Milan level with a superb diagonal strike from outside the area before Destro struck again when he rose to head in a cross and Kalulu came to Milan’s rescue seven minutes from time.
The 20-year-old’s first goal for the club saw Stefano Pioli’s side set a new record by scoring at least twice in 14 consecutive Serie A games, bettering the run of Torino in 1948.
Elsewhere, struggling Fiorentina earned a 1-1 draw at home to fifth-placed Sassuolo, Bologna fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Spezia, Sampdoria won 2-1 at Hellas Verona and Parma played out a goalless draw with Cagliari.