MADRID ( Associated Press) — The days of Barcelona fans whistling and booing Ousmane Dembele are long gone.
There was only praise from the public for the French forward, who led the local team to the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.
Dembele scored the opening goal early in the second half, with Barcelona defeating Real Sociedad 1–0 to return to the best-of-four round of the tournament, after a one-year absence.
The result ended a nine-game winning streak for Real Sociedad, who went down to a man after 40 minutes after Bras Mendez was shown a red card for a dangerous tackle on Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets.
It was the Basque team’s 27th consecutive away defeat against Barca as visitors. They haven’t won since 1991 in 31 matches at the Catalan fiefdom.
The Basque team arrived this season as one of the strongest teams in Spain with 21 wins in 28 matches in various competitions. Thirteen of those victories came in someone else’s court.
Real Sociedad had suffered just four defeats overall and were third in Spain’s La Liga, six points behind Barcelona.
But the hosts remained in control for most of the game and opened the scoring in the 52nd minute with Dembele’s angled shot past defender Jules Kunde inside the area.
“The quality of the player we know is very unbalanced,” Uruguayan defender Ronald Araújo commented about his teammate Dembele. “He’s making good decisions and he’s helping us with the goals now, something that must have been difficult for him before.”
Barca fans were furious with Dembele last summer after he refused to loan him out to the club’s second squad. But he has played well and has been vital to the team in the recent past.
On Wednesday, he turned to chances again before scoring his third goal in six games.
Some supporters stood to give Dembele a standing ovation after 84 minutes, when he was replaced by Ansu Fati.
Real Sociedad had some good chances towards the end but could not capitalize on them. Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a brilliant save.
Barcelona were knocked out in the round of 16 of the previous edition and will win the cup in 2021, their last title before Lionel Messi’s departure.
Now, the club is on a streak of four wins including the final against Real Madrid played in Saudi Arabia.