Andres Iniesta's illustrious Barcelona career came to an end with a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad at a Camp Nou in celebratory mood.
The 34-year-old had announced in April that he would leave the Catalan giants at the end of the season – just two days before Ernesto Valverde's side beat Deportivo La Coruna to confirm a 25th LaLiga title.
Played out against that backdrop it was hardly surprising that, at times, it felt more like a testimonial match rather than the final league game of the season.
Iniesta demonstrated his abundant repertoire in a dominant first-half display, finding his team-mates with an array of precise and inventive passes, something he has done with distinction since his debut in the 2002-03 campaign.
While the World Cup winner was not involved in the game's solitary goal, he will have surely looked on admiringly as Philippe Coutinho whipped in a fine finish from outside the area after 57 minutes.
The curtain eventually came down on Iniesta’s time with Barca in the 81st minute, the midfielder leaving the field to a rapturous reception and handing over the captain’s armband to Lionel Messi in a symbolic gesture.
In a bright, open start it was the visitors who carved out the first clear sight of goal though, Willian Jose heading straight at Marc-Andre ter Stegen from Adnan Januzaj's clipped cross.
The Belgian winger then tested Barca's goalkeeper himself soon after with a whipped effort from outside the penalty area before Iniesta came close to a fairytale goal – his low strike flashing past Miguel Angel Moya's right-hand post and into the side netting.
A rejuvenated Ousmane Dembele then delivered two fine crosses in quick succession that should have resulted in an opener. First, an unmarked Ivan Rakitic failed to locate the target with a header from 10 yards and then Luis Suarez scuffed a shot wide from the Frenchman's low ball into the box.
Sociedad were fortunate not to be reduced to 10 men moments before the interval when Raul Navas hacked down a marauding Dembele, referee Jose Luis Munuera Montero opting to give the defender just a yellow card.
Barca started the second period with a spring in their step and were rewarded with a goal of the highest calibre from Coutinho.
The Brazilian – who netted a hat-trick in last weekend’s remarkable 5-4 defeat to Levante, a result that ended Barca's unbeaten record in the league this term – cut in from the left and unleashed a trademark curled finish from 25 yards that crashed in off Moya's left-hand post.
Messi almost set up a second within minutes of his introduction, only for fellow substitute Denis Suarez to shoot too close to Moya, while the Argentine forward failed to direct a header beyond the Sociedad goalkeeper from Luis Suarez's cross.
Iniesta’s long goodbye finally came to an end nine minutes from time when he was replaced by Paco Alcacer, while there was also time for Sociedad to pay tribute to their own legendary midfielder in Xabi Prieto, the 34-year-old coming on for the final few minutes ahead of his impending retirement.
Key Opta stats:
- Only Xavi Hernandez (767) has made more appearances for Barcelona than Iniesta in all competitions (674).
- Iniesta is the second player with the most wins in La Liga in the 21st century (312, Casillas 311), after Messi (315).
- No other player has scored more goals from outside the box than Coutinho in Europe’s big five leagues this season (eight, level with Messi, four with Barcelona and four with Liverpool).
- Barca are unbeaten in 35 consecutive games at Camp Nou in LaLiga (W29 D6), their best unbeaten home streak since November 1993 (40 - W34 D6).
- Barcelona (99 goals) have failed to reach 100+ goals in a single league season for the first time since 2010/11 (95 goals).
- Prieto has made 376 appearances in LaLiga - only five players have made more for Sociedad.
|Allegri hails ´great professional´ Ronaldo|
|LeBron, Ball first Lakers team-mates with triple-doubles in same game since 1982|
|Premier League contenders Liverpool ready to win titles – Henderson|
|Hopkins´ two TDs help Texans close in on AFC South title with win over Jets|
|Courtois: Simeone criticises Real Madrid to boost popularity|
|Mourinho in the dark over transfers as Pogba rumours swirl again|
|Mourinho marvels at Salah going nuclear|
|The lucky ones - Mourinho assesses Liverpool´s title charge|
|Juventus boss Allegri turned his back on Ronaldo penalty|
|Dickerson hoping Barkley falls short of breaking his records|
|Bristol shock La Rochelle, Clermont win again|
|LeBron: Meeting Jordan for first time was godly|
|Ronaldo scores Juventus´ 5,000th Serie A goal|
|I was all over the place - Allen reaches Scottish Open final despite hangovers|
|Solari defends wasteful Asensio after slim Madrid win|
|Torino 0 Juventus 1: Ronaldo capitalises on Zaza woe|
|I do my work on the pitch – Icardi unconcerned by Inter contract discussions|
|Lyon defender Rafael set for three months out|
|Inter captain Icardi is the ´perfect´ striker – Spalletti|
|Fulham have to stick together, says Ranieri|
|Nuno hails ´very special´ Wolves achievement after third straight win|
|Stuttgart captain Gentner´s father dies at Hertha fixture|
|Valverde not desperate for new centre-back amid talk of Christensen loan|
|Toulouse and Saracens stay perfect in Champions Cup|
|Kovac lauds Bayern´s best performance of the season|
|Barcelona can get the best out of Coutinho and Dembele, claims Valverde|
|Borussia Dortmund 2 Werder Bremen 1: Alcacer and Reus guarantee top spot for mid-season break|
|Bristol City 2 Norwich City 2: Canaries knocked off their perch despite late equaliser|
|Atletico´s fighting spirit lauded by Simeone, Godin|
|Hodgson relieved to see Palace end Zaha curse|
|Real Madrid 1 Rayo Vallecano 0: Benzema secures steady response to CSKA loss|
|Fulham 0 West Ham 2: Snodgrass, Antonio punish profligate hosts|
|Warnock brands refereeing situation ´a disgrace´ after Watford defeat|
|Inter 1 Udinese 0: Icardi penalty gets lethargic Nerazzurri back on track|
|Wagner retains belief in survival bid despite Newcastle defeat|
|Griezmann feeling the strain after busy 2018|
|Pochettino ´so pleased´ as tired Tottenham scrap to Burnley win|
|Man Utd hand Smalling new contract|
|ES Tunis 0 Al Ain 3: Convincing victory books River Plate semi|
|Championship Review: Bamford fires Leeds to summit, Middlesbrough defeated by QPR|
|Curry reacts to Kings´ trolling with moon landing video|
|Wentz ruled out of Rams clash|
|Pochettino reaches 100 Premier League wins for Tottenham faster than Wenger for Arsenal|
|Real Valladolid 2 Atletico Madrid 3: Griezmann the hero on landmark appearance|
|Silva rues Richarlison´s missed chances at City|
|Gibson has no worries over Proteas batsmen|
|Wolves 2 Bournemouth 0: Jimenez and Cavaleiro score against toothless Cherries|
|Crystal Palace 1 Leicester City 0: Captain Milivojevic earns vital victory|
|Watford 3 Cardiff City 2: Hornets hang on despite late fightback|
|Tottenham 1 Burnley 0: Eriksen snatches victory at the death|
|Huddersfield Town 0 Newcastle United 1: Rondon strike settles scrap|
|Sabres suspend forward Berglund for failing to report to the team|
|Saunders thanks Fury for getting him ´back on the right track´|
|Hannover 0 Bayern Munich 4: Gnabry and Kimmich star in crushing win|
|I admire Sterling – Guardiola|
|City´s strength in depth makes it hard for me – Jesus|
|Jamieson holds slender lead in Malelane|
|Kashima Antlers 3 Guadalajara 2: Comeback win sets up Real Madrid semi-final|
|Hosszu claims fourth Hangzhou gold, Le Clos beaten by Santos|
|Manchester City 3 Everton 1: Jesus at the double as City go top|
|Parker defiant on low blow claims after ending 2018 ´with a bang´|
|Alisson: Liverpool must beat Manchester United|
|Mourinho´s brutal honesty praised by Karanka|
|Fielding inspired by Bellew after overcoming setbacks to face Canelo|
|Mourinho loves being a manager ´more than ever´|
|Khawaja unconcerned by poor start to India series|
|WATCH: Dellavedova dives into media table to rescue possession|
|Christmas form could transform Man United´s season - Rashford|
|Urgent changes needed at Manchester United – Ferdinand|
|Ishant confident as Kohli carries India into day three|