Barcelona claw their way to win in Gijon
FC Barcelona battled to a 1-0 victory away at Sporting Gijón on Sunday night. Utility man Adriano scored the only goal on what was a demanding and occasionally bruising encounter away at La Liga’s bottom club.
Indeed, recent weeks have brought plenty of bad news on the injury front, and for this game Guardiola had to make do without Alexis Sánchez, Cesc Fàbregas and Andrés Iniesta, all of whom are recovering from muscular injuries.
However, the coach continues to persist with a three-man defence; this time Alves and Abidal flanked Macherano at the back. Busquets sat in front of the backline again, offering help to his defenders when needed. Meanwhile Adriano started the game in a somewhat unfamiliar right-midfield role.
And it was to be the Brazilian player who made the breakthrough for Barcelona. With 11 minutes on the clock, Xavi looked up and slammed a shot from central position about 25 yards out. Juan Pablo in the Sporting goal was well beaten, but the ball rebounded off the left post and into the path of Adriano on the right angle of the penalty area. His bouncing, left-footed effort was slightly scuffed, but completely wrong-footed the ‘keeper and nestled in the bottom-left corner to make it 1-0.
The rest of the half was a story of absolute domination but few clear chances for Barça. A few minutes after the goal, Villa swapped passes with Thiago, but fired straight at Juan Pablo.
After that Barcelona couldn’t make their 80% possession count further. This was partly down to the organised defending of Gijón, who stepped up and caught Barcelona offside on a number of occasions; Villa was perhaps the chief culprit in this respect, but was joined by Messi and Alves.
Not long before half time Messi might have won a penalty, when he dribbled into the Sporting area, only to be felled by Miguel de las Cuevas, who appeared to catch his heels.
As the half ended there was a minor injury scare for Mascherano, who was caught on the side of the head accidentally by Alves’ knee and looked in real trouble before walking off groggily down the tunnel to join his teammates in the dressing room.
The second half was a similar story to the first, with Barcelona working hard to create openings, but being denied either by the offside flag or by sloppiness. Abidal limped off after 52 minutes with what appeared to be yet another muscle strain. He was replaced by Maxwell, and Barça then reverted to a back four when Piqué arrived in place of Pedro.
There were a few rugged looking challenges flying in as the game wore on, with Busquets, Messi and Alves all sent flying in the closing minutes. Messi came closest to doubling the lead, heading directly at Pablo, but Barcelona were ultimately happy to settle for a single goal and in truth were never really troubled at the back.
0-1, Adriano (min 12)