The days of Barcelona fans jeering Ousmane Dembélé are long gone. (More Football News)
There were only cheers from the crowd at the Camp Nou after the France forward led the hosts to the semifinals of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.
Dembélé scored the winning goal early in the second half as Barcelona defeated 10-man Real Sociedad 1-0 to return to the last four after a one-year absence.
The result ended a nine-game winning streak for Sociedad, which played a man down from the 40th minute after Brais Méndez was sent off for a dangerous tackle on Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets.
It was Sociedad’s 27th straight loss to Barcelona as a visitor. It hasn’t won at the Catalan club in 31 matches, dating to 1991.
The Basque Country side arrived as one of the hottest teams in Spain with 21 wins in 28 matches in all competitions this season, with 13 of those wins coming in away games. It had lost only four times overall and is third in the Spanish league, six points behind leader Barcelona.
Barcelona was in control for most of the match, though, and opened the scoring in the 52nd through Dembélé’s angled shot from inside the area after a pass into space by defender Jules Koundé.
“What a great game by Ousmane,” Barcelona defender Ronald Araújo said. “We know of his quality. He has been helping us a lot, and now with goals as well. He has been making the difference, making all the right decisions, which before maybe it was something that he struggled with.”
Barcelona fans had been upset with Dembélé after he refused to accept the club’s decision to loan him to another club last summer. He has been playing well and been crucial for the team recently, though, and again created several opportunities Wednesday before scoring his third goal in six matches.
Some fans were on their feet to give him an ovation when Dembélé was replaced by Ansu Fati in the 84th.
“He has matured a lot,” Barcelona coach Xavi said about the 25-year-old Dembélé. “We only gave him confidence, we believe in him.”
Sociedad had a couple of good chances near the end but couldn’t capitalize on them, with Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen coming up with big saves.
“We competed well while 11 against 11 and after going down a man as well,” Sociedad defender Aritz Elustondo said. “We are proud of how we played even though we were eliminated.”
Barcelona was eliminated in the round of 16 last season and won the Copa in 2021 for its last title before the departure of Lionel Messi. The Catalan club has won four matches in a row, including the Spanish Super Cup final against Real Madrid in Saudi Arabia.
Xavi had Robert Lewandowski back after the Poland striker couldn’t play against Getafe in the Spanish league because of a suspension.
Sociedad was without veteran playmaker David Silva because of a muscle injury.
Barcelona eliminated third-division club Ceuta in the round of 16, while Sociedad got past Mallorca.
Osasuna defeated visiting Sevilla 2-1 in extra time to reach the Copa semifinals for the first time since 2002-03.
Abde Ezzalzouli scored the winner on a 99th-minute breakaway after Sevilla had forced extra time with a stoppage-time goal by Youssef En-Nesyri.
The hosts opened the scoring through Chimy Ávila in the 71st.
Sevilla, one point from the relegation zone in the Spanish league, last made it to the semifinals in 2020-21.
On Thursday, Real Madrid hosts city rival Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao visits Valencia.
The draw for the semifinals will be on Monday.