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FC Barcelona cruised to a 6-1 win over Sporting Gijón at the Camp Nou on Wednesday, keeping up the heat on the league title race.
It was a free-flowing attacking display from Luis Enrique’s men, who made light work of the struggling Asturians through goals from Leo Messi, an own goal, Luis Suárez, Paco Alcácer, Neymar Jr and Ivan Rakitić.
Lining up with an unfamiliar 3-4-3 formation, Barça started brightly, pushing Sporting deep and controlling the tempo of the game, a pattern that would follow throughout the one-sided encounter.
After several minutes of patiently exchanging passes in the opposition’s half, Mascherano had a go at picking the lock, and did so to perfection. His diagonal ball over the top found his compatriot Messi all alone and, with the keeper rushing out to claim the ball, looped a header into the net for 1-0.
Barça’s good start was about to get better just two minutes later as a perfectly weighted through ball from Neymar found Suárez in the clear. The Uruguayan took on the keeper before shooting towards goal from a tight angle, which eventually went in via the assistance of Sporting defender Juan Rodriguez.
Sporting refusted to give in and managed to reduce the deficit midway through the half. Burgui played a through-ball in behind Busquets to find Sergio who, in turn, found the post with his toe-poke but the rebound fell kindly to Castro who couldn’t miss from point-blank range (2-1).
But Barca were in no mood to mess around as they ruthlessly restored their two-goal lead not long after. Rakitić’s dinked cross was headed away but not out of danger as Suárez, even when back-peddling, was able to smash home a volley for 3-1.
Sporting came close to reducing the score once again through a Burgui effort, which had to be tipped wide by Ter Stegen. The clearance from the resulting corner found Neymar with the freedom of the opposition half to gallop into, but his side-footed strike was denied by the legs of Cuellar.
Second half, similar story
Suárez made way for Alcácer at the break and it was not long before the centre-forward was off the mark. Similar to the first half, Barça came bursting out of the traps; Messi was on hand to set up the Spanish international who dispatched emphatically with his left foot for a 4-1 lead.
Just before the hour mark, Messi dinked a free-kick over the wall from the edge of the box but was denied by the woodwork in what was his last action of the game before being substituted to a standing ovation.
So when Barça won a free-kick on the corner of the penalty area minutes later, Neymar’s eyes lit up. The Brazilian placed the ball before arrowing it into the corner of the net for 5-1.
Rakitić gave the home fans a final souvenir just before the end as he lashed the ball into the roof of the net from close range, capping off a fine night’s work from the whole squad.
The three points keep Barça well in the hunt for the title. Luis Enrique’s men go top of the table by one point after the Real Madrid's 3-3 draw with Las Palmas, though Zinedine Zidane's men still have one more game in hand.
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