Having gotten back to winning ways with an 8-0 midweek win away at Deportivo de La Coruña, Saturday's game was a chance to continue the momentum that would take them to the title.
With no Champions League game on the horizon, Luis Enrique had the luxury of fielding his strongest XI. However, in a repeat of last weekend, he dropped Dani Alves to the bench and Sergi Roberto took his place.
|Shots on Target||10||3|
Barça started the game in a quick fashion. Within six minutes, Roberto had produced his best Alves impression by bombing down the flank but unlike Alves, his cross was accurate and found the head of Lionel Messi. However, Barça's number 10 couldn't quite keep the header down from six yards.
It wasn't long before he did convert though. In the 11th minute, Andrés Iniesta dinked the ball into the box towards the head of Luis Suárez. There was a suspicion of a foul as Iván Cuéllar came to clear. Appearing to trip over Suárez's outreached leg, he could only palm the ball into the ground and the bounce sat up perfectly for Messi. The Argentine calmly headed the ball over the keeper, who was now in no man's land, and into the back of the net. It was 1-0 but the goal was met with complaints from the Sporting players.
After the goal, Barcelona continued to create chances but failed to convert them. Messi saw a shot saved while Neymar was played through but hesitated in taking the shot and the chance disappeared. It was reminiscent of Neymar's recent form that he wasn't hitting it first time but instead took more touches than was needed.
Sporting, too, were finding ways towards goal. One of these became a key talking point of the first half and it came towards the end of the first half. After going round the outstretched Claudio Bravo, the initial shot was cleared off the line by Javier Mascherano. The follow up effort bobbled towards goal and struck Gerard Piqué. The Sporting players immediately claimed handball but the replays showed it hit the side of Piqué's ribs.
The players came back out for the second half and the game restarted with Barça on top. Iniesta blazed a shot over, Jordi Alba had a shot deflected but worryingly Neymar again missed a good opportunity. Being set free by Messi, Neymar looked to be in a perfect position to just curl the ball around the keeper. But he again took too many touches, showing signs of nerves, before looking to find a teammate. The cross didn't make it past the first man and it was another chance gone.
The lead was finally doubled in the 63rd minute. In a trademark Barça passing move, Iniesta was released down the left side of the box. He drilled it across the goalmouth and Suárez was on hand at the back post to slot it into the net. Again though, there was controversy as replays showed he was marginally offside, a call which is almost impossible to spot for a linesmen.
Sporting were tiring and the third goal looked like it was coming. Piqué left the field for Marc Bartra as the clock approached the 70 minute mark before the next chance fell to Messi. Neymar chipped the ball into the Argentine's path and Messi's deflected shot was goal bound but was headed clear.
A minute late though and the ball was on the penalty spot. A cross struck the arm of the defender and this time it was given. Suárez stepped up to take the spot kick and blasted it into the right top corner.
Three minutes later and the ball was on the spot yet again. Neymar tricked his way into the box before Antonio Sanabria came across and swiped him out. Suárez was again the man to take the set piece but this time he fired it into the middle of the goal. It was 4-0 and job done for Barça with a goal that takes Suárez to the top of the goalscorer charts.
With the game approaching the final minutes, there was time for another penalty. In one of the softest penalty decisions of the season, Ognjen Vranjes placed his hand on Neymar's shoulder as they jumped for the ball. The referee saw enough to point to the spot and this time Neymar was the one to take it. The keeper made solid contact but it still found the net.
The onslaught wasn't finished though as in the 87th minute, Suárez got his fourth. Played in to the left of the goal, the Uruguayan fired the ball first time in at the near post. The goal confirmed that he had now scored four goals in consecutive games.
The game finished 6-0 to put behind any talk of Barça losing their grip on the title.
|Roll Call Info|
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