Barcelona moved back to the top of La Liga with another crushing victory, as they easily swept aside relegation threatened Sporting Gijon at the Camp Nou on Saturday evening. Full of confidence after their midweek return to form, the Blaugrana continued their march towards the title with Luis Suarez bagging four goals for the second match in succession. Lionel Messi and Neymar also got themselves on the scoresheet on what was another impressive night for "MSN" and for FC Barcelona.
Celebrating diada de Sant Jordi on a rainy evening in Catalunya, the Blaugrana were looking to put on a show for the Camp Nou faithful after a midweek thrashing of Deportivo La Coruna, and it didn’t take them long to break the deadlock against Sporting Gijon. With less than a quarter of an hour on the clock, Andrés Iniesta improvised a neat little chip over the Gijon defense and while this was partially cleared by Ivan Cuellar, Lionel Messi converted the open goal opportunity with an accurate header.
It was Messi’s 40th goal of the season, and he could have doubled his tally just minutes later if not for an impressive reactionary save from Cuellar. Barça however took their foot off the gas after the opener, and it was Gijon who ended the half with the best opportunity to grab the game’s next goal.
Barcelona loanee Alen Halilovic was involved as his cross turned shot was cleared off the line by Gerard Piqué, with more than a slight suspicion of handball. Despite protests from the Sporting squad, the referee was unmoved and let play continue, with the hosts taking a narrow lead into the pivotal second half.
After a slow finish to the first half, Barça came out firing in the second half and for a moment, it seemed as though we might have a repeat of last weekend’s match against Valencia. Ivan Cuellar was giving us his best impression of Diego Alves, as he smothered Neymar’s one-on-one to add to his highlight reel from the first period.
However, the Blaugrana would not be denied; Andrés Iniesta once again was the architect and will be directly credited with the assist for this one as his square pass found Luis Suarez unmarked at the back post for an easy tap-in. Barça had their cushion and Suarez had his 50th goal of the season, tying Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for the Pichichi in the process.
It only took about ten minutes for Suarez to add his second to move ahead of Ronaldo, converting from the spot after referee Carlos Clos Gomez adjudged Gijon to have handled Dani Alves’ attempted cross. Just minutes later, he pointed to the spot again as a crude challenge felled Neymar in the area and again Suarez made no mistake to secure his hat-trick.
Unbelievably enough, Carlos Clos wasn’t done handing out penalties; Neymar was again challenged in the area by Vranjes and even though it seemed like quite a soft challenge, Barça were awarded a penalty anyway. Out of sorts Neymar stepped up for this one and also converted the complete the Manita.
Still the scoring wasn’t over; Lionel Messi teed up Luis Suarez who finished superbly at the near post to claim four goals for the second match in succession.
Three points, another big win and three converted penalties? We can’t ask for much more than that.
Barcelona: Bravo; Roberto (Alves), Piqué (Bartra), Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Rakitić (Turan), Iniesta; Messi, Suárez, Neymar
Goals: Messi (12’), Suárez (63’, 74’, 77’, 88’), Neymar (85’)
Sporting: Cuellar; Vranjes, Hernández, Lichnovsky, Isma (Canella); Rachid, Mascarell; Perez (Sanabria), Halilovic, Melendez; Guerrero (Castro)