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Leo Messi made yet more history and Luis Suárez made up for a penalty miss with his 24th league goal of the season as Barça won 3-1 at Sporting Gijón on Wednesday. Three points won in authoritative fashion mean a massive step forward in the Blaugrana’s quest for the Liga title.
Having already opted to leave Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba in Barcelona, Luis Enrique started the game with such heavyweights as Andres Iniesta, Javier Mascherano and Dani Alves sitting on the bench.
Nevertheless, Barça looked as commanding as ever, even though the first real chance fell, quite literally, to Sporting’s Alex Menendez – who struck, mid-stumble, just wide of Claudio Bravo’s left post. In fact, home keeper Ivan Cuéllar wasn’t truly tested until the 21st minute, when he got the better of Luis Suárez in a one-on-one.
Little else of note happened in the first 25 minutes and then, out of nothing, Messi deftly stroked the ball from outside the box, tucking it neatly inside the Sporting post to put Barça ahead. And it was no ordinary goal. It made him the first player to ever score 300 times in La Liga.
With the goal, the game flashed into life. Just moments later, Carlos Castro got on the end of a nicely-worked move to get Gijón back level, but El Molinón’s lively stadium announcer had barely finished leading the cries of joy when Barça were back in front. A smoothly worked move between Suárez and Messi ended with the latter beating Cuéllar for the second time in six minutes.
Barça were on fire, but Sporting managed to hold out against intense pressure, limiting Barça to two chances for Neymar Jr, one of which hit the woodwork, before the half-time whistle finally brought a chance for respite.
Suárez makes amends
The home side continued to weather the Barça storm for the first quarter hour of the second half, but the visitors were finally rewarded for their efforts when Neymar Jr was brought down in the area. Suárez went for the conventional approach to penalty-taking this time, but Cuéllar read his intentions well and Sporting were still trailing by just one goal.
But the Uruguayan striker didn’t need much time to redeem himself. Moments later, he skipped through the Sporting defence and lofted a fine left-footer into the net. Barça 3-1 up with 23 minutes left to play.
The third goal took the pressure off Barça, and for the rest of the game they could relax and let loose. The chances continued to flow, but there was no further scoring. The result leaves the Catalans a mighty six games clear at the top of the table, with a visit to Las Palmas next up on Saturday at 4.00pm CET.
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