GIJON, SPAIN - OCTOBER 02: Leo Messi of FC Barcelona looks on during the La Liga match between Real Sporting de Gijon and FC Barcelona at Estadio El Molinon on October 2, 2011 in Gijon, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Alright, first things first, apologies for the late review but unfortunately the writing staff has been extremely busy and since I'm the least tenured, I was forced to pick short straw so to speak.
There wouldn't be complains about this match if it weren't for the fact that my beloved club looked lacklustre against Gijon. I'm still trying to figure out how to pronounce that, is it "gi-hon?", with the hon sounding like a very nasal donkey?
Since we're talking about donkies, both teams (alright, especially "gi-hon") had work rates like the not so illustrious animal and that's really all I could say in Barca's favor.
The Catalans went into the match high on confidence after thrashing Bate 0-5 and everybody was hoping for another footballing lesson only to be let down. That match turned out to be a very stale encounter in which Barcelona won by the narrowest of margins. The Blaugranas started the match in a manner that suggested a comprehensive victory was just around the corner.
With Dani Alves making a short pass to David Villa in the 5th minute, Barca had their first attempt on goal which was deflected for a corner. Four minutes later the Spanish striker had another chance and sent a bullet towards goal only for it to go inches above the crossbar. However, Cules didn't have to wait much longer as Xavi hit a curving shot that went off the post only for utility man, Adriano to strike the rebound into the net. Lionel Messi seemed to have been brought down in the box in the 34th minutes but the referee (wrongly, in my opinion) did not see a foul and play went on.
The game in general, was unlike other matches where Barca had trouble scoring. Unlike the Milan or Valencia match, the Catalans did not look nervous at the back and for once, the feeling that Sporting were going to score, never arose. All in all, Xavi and co. did a great job of controlling the game by keeping possession and I don't think Sporting had even one threatening chance in the game.
However, the footballing Gods decided that Barca were not going to get away that easily and decided that an injury to a key player was in order, namely, Eric Abidal. The French defender was the next in a long line of FC Barcelona players who pulled a hamstring and will be out for 7-10 days. Fortunately, with the International break (The collective scream "Oh Boy" can almost be audible) upon us, important players like Andres Iniesta, Eric Abidal, Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez should be back to full fitness.
Maxwell was brought in as Abidal's replacement and did a decent job. There were a few half chances by the Catalans, most notably Lionel Messi's headed effort which uncharacteristically went straight to the keeper's hands. Further substitutions were made to shore up the defence and midfield and Pep, in his wisdom (and to my relief), decided to switch back to 4-3-3 once Gerard Pique and Seydou Keita were brought on for Adriano and Pedro.
In conclusion, like true champions, Barca although fatigued and lacking a spark in the final third, were able to grind out a favourable result and move to the top of the league. A relief for all Cules since our hated rivals, Real Madrid won against Espanyol.
Until the next time,
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