MADRID, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- FC Barcelona surrendered their lead at the top of the BBVA Primera Liga when they were beaten 3-1 away to Real Sociedad in San Sebastian on Saturday night.
Barca's defeat coupled with Real Madrid's 3-0 win at home to Elche earlier in the day, seeing the Catalans fall three points off the pace. They could drop to third place on Sunday if Atletico Madrid are able to take a point from their visit to play Osasuna.
On the balance of play Barca can have no complaints after being out thought tactically and out played in midfield and attack.
Only once did Barca ever look like breaking down a very disciplined Real Sociedad midfield, while Gorka Elustondo, David Zurutuza and Markel Bergara never gave them a breathing space. Carlos Vela, Sergio Canales and Antoine Griezmann used their pace time and again to tear the Barca defense to shreds.
Barcelona made sweeping changes after their midweek Champions League win against Manchester City with Alex Song, Pedro. Neymar, Adriano Martin Montoya and Marc Bartra all coming into the side.
Meanwhile Real Sociedad went into the game knowing Barca have failed to win in their last four visits to the Anoeta Stadium and showed their confidence as soon as the fourth minute when Antoine Griezmann hit a free kick straight at Victor Valdes.
The home side were closing down spaces in central midfield and looking to play at pace with Carlos Vela looking especially threatening.
The Mexican draw a good save from Valdes, who was then forced to concede a corner after 32 minutes.
Vela played it short to Sergio Canales and his in-swinging cross was heading into his own net by Alex Song, under pressure from Gorka Elustondo.
It was no less than Real Sociedad deserved, but the lead lasted just three minutes before Leo Messi collected a neat pass from Montoya and drilled a low shot into the corner of the goal in what was virtually his first action in the match.
Vela almost restored Real Sociedad's lead with five minutes remaining after an error from Gerard Pique: Vela swiveled past him and with the goal at his mercy sliced his shot wide.
If Barca could count themselves lucky to be on level terms at the break, that luck ran out twice early in the second half. Claudio Bravo's long clearance was flicked on and Vela collected it before looking up and feeding Griezmann to beat Valdes with a right foot shot.
Zurutuza put the game beyond doubt just before the hour when Barca's defense was again slow to react and he stole in to slip the ball past Valdes to make it 3-1.
Barca had the majority of the ball in the last half hour and were camped in the Real Sociedad half, but failed to create any clear chances in what is probably their most disappointing display of the campaign.