On the back of a famous victory in Portugal against Benfica in the opening group-stage match of the 2023/24 UEFA Champions League campaign, Red Bull Salzburg manager Gerhard Struber made only the solitary alternation with Oumar Solet coming into the heart of defence to partner Strahinja Pavlović.
Meanwhile, following a creditable 1-1 draw against last season’s finalists Inter Milan, Struber’s managerial counterpart on the dugout for the early evening clash at the Red Bull Arena, Imanol Alguacil, was forced into one enforced change – with Aihen Muñoz coming in at left-back for injury-stricken Arsenal loanee, Kieran Tierney.
SAL: Schlager, Dedić, Solet, Pavlović, Terzić; Gourna-Douath, Bidstrup, Kjærgaard, Oscar Gloukh; Konaté, Šimić
RSO: Remiro, Traoré, Zubeldia, Le Normand, Muñoz; Méndez, Zubimendi, Merino, Barrenetxea; Kubo, Oyarzabal
On the losing side in all three of their away UEFA Champions League group-stage encounters on their last appearance in Europe’s pinnacle club competition in 2013, Real Sociedad showcased a scintillating start to their footballing expedition to Austria. Leading from the front, Real Sociedad captain Mikel Oyarzabal needed only seven minutes to get his name upon the scoresheet, as the wily forward patiently took his time inside the penalty area before exquisitely passing the ball past the statuesque figure of Salzburg goalkeeper Alexander Schlager.Embed from Getty Images
Seeking an immediate response, Red Bull were left incensed on the berth of the quarter-hour mark, as referee for this evening’s occasion, Bartosz Frankowski was only willing to show Robin Le Normand a yellow card despite the retreating defender clinically bringing down Salzburg striker Roko Šimić as he bared down on Álex Remiro’s goal. In even more frustrating scenes for the hosts, Sociedad doubled their lead in the 27th minute as Brais Méndez mercilessly travelled with the ball seemingly stuck to his feet from inside of his own half before aiming a sweetly struck shot that nestling itself into the far corner of the net beyond the outstretched dive of Schlager.
Imanol Alguacil’s side would again see a viable sight of goal with the contest fast approaching the half-time break. Nonetheless, on this occasion, Schlager was up to the challenge of preventing Ander Barrenetxea’s effort from putting the reward of three points beyond any reasonable doubt.
Sometimes football can be a crucial game, which the hosts would again find out in the opening three minutes of the second half, as Sociedad number one Remiro brought down Šimić to concede a needless penalty. However, VAR took centre stage, ultimately recommending that the man in the middle, Frankowski, overturn his decision, subsequently not awarding the spot-kick to the already increasingly exasperated Austrian Bundesliga champions.
Brought on during the interval by manager Gerhard Struber to try and change the hosts’ misfortunes in front of goal, Salzburg substitute Amankwah Forson selfishly wasted the best goalscoring chance of the second 45 minutes, as the midfielder fired high into the stands instead of entrusting in one of his teammates to take on the opportunity themselves.
The victory marks Real Sociedad’s first win in 14 UEFA Champions League matches, as La Real will turn their attention back to domestic matters over the weekend with a trip to La Liga footballing heavyweights Atlético Madrid. Meanwhile, Red Bull Salzburg will aim to stay at the summit of the Austrian Bundesliga standings with a victory at SK Austria Klagenfurt.