Ten-man Barcelona See off SportingMarch 4, 2012
Barcelona produced a performance full of character to defeat Sporting Gijón 3-1 at the Camp Nou on Saturday night. Star-man Iniesta gave Barça the lead in the first half, but when Piqué saw red for a professional foul, Sporting equalised through Barral and Barcelona needed some brilliance from Keita and Xavi to secure the victory.
Messi sat out this match with a suspension, and with Alexis rested on the bench, Barcelona went into the encounter with a side that that looked a little short of recognised forwards.
Sporting kept 11 behind the ball, and it was up to Barcelona to find a way through. There were occasional chances, starting as early as the 2nd minute, when a corner routine between Xavi and Pedro found the winger with a bit of room in the area, but his first time shot was high and wide.
Adriano almost opened the scoring in the 14th minute when he embarked on a lightning run from deep, beating three defenders in a flash before firing just wide. Later Keita found himself with a sight of goal in the area, but a crucial lunge by Botia saw the ball deflect out for a corner.
Then, as half-time approached, and as the match appeared to be descending into a stalemate, Barcelona made the breakthrough. It was a fabulous team goal, with Keita unlocking the stubborn defence, posting Adriano through down the left, who in turn squared for Iniesta to finish with ease from six yards. Cesc nearly made it two before the break, but his effort under pressure was blocked and cleared for a corner by Botía.
The second half began in dramatic fashion. De Las Cuevas got in behind the Barça defence, and as Piqué came in with a challenge, the Sporting forward went down. Referee Carballo had no hesitation in showing a straight red, but replays suggested this was a contentious decision. Barcelona weren’t able to clear their lines and reorganise before Sporting equalised. Mendy tricked his way to the byline, and Barral snuck in front of Valdés to direct his low cross into the net.
Barcelona wobbled briefly as they tried to come to terms with the one-man deficit, but soon settled and went about trying to regain the lead through the majestic Iniesta and Xavi. The former was sublime in carving a clear opportunity for substitute Alexis, but a Sporting defender intervened just as the Chilean was about to pull the trigger.
Then with just over ten minutes of the match remaining, Mascherano passed forward from deep for Alexis, who produced a deft touch to his left for the on-rushing Keita. The midfielder took it onto his left foot and curled a magnificent shot into the top right corner to regain the lead.
As the minutes ticked down, Barça made sure of the win when Iniesta went on another fantastic run before releasing Xavi who clipped the ball over Juan Pablo to cap a hard-fought victory.
1-0 Iniesta (min 41)
1-1 David Barral (min 48)
2-1 Keita (min 70)
3-1 Xavi (min 87)