Barça put in a gritty performance to see off an ultra defensive Sporting team despite playing most of the second half with ten men after Piqué was sent off. Late goals from Keita and Xavi sealed the win after Iniesta had opened the scoring in the first half.
Barça chalked up their third league win on the trot after overcoming a Sporting team who'd clearly come to defend and park the bus in front of their goal right from the start. Guardiola's men were without Messi who was suspended but they had no difficulty in taking the initiative against such conservative opponents. There was plenty of controversy too, with three pretty clear penalty shouts denied the home team and a harsh looking red for Pique, but although Sporting managed a second half equaliser, Barça showed they are not just the most talented team on the planet, bit also full of steely determination, as Keita and Xavi gave them the points with two splendidly taken goals.
Clemente took an unusual tactical approach to the game, with a four man defence and man markers in midfield - a clear indication of his team's intention to defend from the off. As usual, Barça got hold of the ball and just attacked, looking sharp from the start as they tried to find a way through the wall of red and white shirts in front of them.
It wasn't an easy job though. Pedro saw a goal disallowed on 10 minutes for off side and Adriano hit a shot wide soon after. The full backs were getting heavily involved in attack and Alves was unlucky not to be given a penalty when he was bundled over in the box. Space was a t a premium around the Sporting area, but Keita found some to shoot, only for a Sporting hand to block it. There was no penalty blown though –much to the Camp Nou crowd's disgust!
Soon after though, on 41 minutes, they were on their feet to applaud a brilliantly worked goal between Keita, Adiano and Iniesta which the Spanish midfielder slotted home for the opener.
The goal came just at the right time – just before the break – but soon after the second half got underway the scene changed dramatically when Gerard Piqué was shown a red card on 46 minutes after he clashed with a Sporting attacker just outside the box. Clemente saw his chance and threw on top scorer David Barral, who rewarded his manager with a goal from only his second touch. Now the fans really got behind their team as the players rolled up their sleeves and fought for the points despite being a goal down.
Alexis came on and almost immediately fluffed a great chance, but Xavi and Iniesta were pulling the strings and more opportunities were bound to come. A third penalty was denied on 68 minutes and the volume inched higher from the crowd as they urged their team on amidst a flurry of yellow cards for the visitors.
The second goal and justice came via a beautifully flighted shot from outside the box by Keita and with the fans now revelling in the lead, Xavi rounded off the night with an exquisite chip over the keeper to make it three. The game saw Barça finish with nine men as Alexis limped off, but this was a heroic performance in which the team showed their commitment, their authority and their brilliance. (via FCBarcelona.com)
FC Barcelona Valdés; Alves, Mascherano, Piqué, Adriano, Keita, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro (Tello, min.59), Cuenca (Puyol, min.81) and Cesc (Alexis, min.59).
Sporting: Juan Pablo, Damián (Barral, min.48), Orfila, Gálvez, Botia, Canella, André Castro, Nacho Cases, Mendy, De las Cuevas (Eguren, min.75) and Ayoze (Carmelo, min.48).
Goals: 1-0: Iniesta, min.42. 1-1: Barral, min.49. 2-1: Keita, min.79. 3-1: Xavi, min.87.
Referee: Velasco Carballo (Colegio Madrilenian). He showed yellow card to Ayoze (min.28), Canella (min.29), Iniesta (min.47), De las Cuevas (min.64), Xavi (min.71)André Castro (min.73), Carmelo (min.74), Keita (min.76), Eguren (min.78), Barral (min.81) and Gálvez (min.82) and drove with Piqué red card (min.46)
Sunbs: Match of the twenty-sixth day of League match at the Camp Nou before 72,442 spectators.