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Mar 4, 2012

FC Barcelona managed to reduce the lead on top of the table to seven points with a brilliant 3-1 victory against Sporting Gijon. For a Barca fan it was a memorable victory as we had to play the entire second half with ten man following Pique's expilsion. Iniesta gave us the lead in the first half, Gijon equalised after Pique's send off but Keita restored the lead with a magical goal and Xavi completed the scoreline. With Busquets and Messi suspended and Abidal injured, Guardiola had to re-shuffle a bit. The defense had Adriano, Mascherano, Pique and Alves. Keita played the holding midfielder role flanked by Iniesta and Xavi on either side. The front trio were Cuenca, Fabregas and Pedro.

Barca were on the task from the word go. In the 2nd minute Pedro shot wide from a corner after doing brilliantly to lose his marker. In the 8th minute Pedro had the ball in the back of net after some brilliant excahnges between Cesc and Iniesta but was correctly ruled offside. Sporting Gijon was sitting deep and defending compactly, making sure there is not much opening down the middle for Barca to operate. In the 27th minute Kieta saw his shot from inside teh box blocked for a corner. We weren't able to penetrate the Sporting defense much, but whenever we tried to attack via the wing we looked more dangerous. In the 37th minute Pedro forced a corner out of a decent angle. In the 42nd minute we finally managed to break this stubborn Gijon defense. The magic needed for the goal was provided by Adriabo, who setup in an incredible run into the box, played a one-two with Keita and squared the ball to Iniesta who had the simple job of tap the ball in. With a goal lead we looked more dangerous In the 44th minute Fabregas saw his shot go wide from a very promising position.

The second half started in a really bad fashion. In the first minute of second half Pique was shown a direct red card after he has been adjudged to have brought down Cuecas outside the box. The resulting free kick deflected off the wall, but from the rebound David Barral equalised for Gijon from a cross from Mendy. Gijon had made two attacking substitution following the red card and were showing more attacking intent. In the 59th minute Guardiola made a double switch bringing on Sanchez and Tello on for Fabregas and Pedro. In the 60th minute Iniesta played Alexis through but his first touch wasn't that great allowing Gijon to clear the danger. In the 69th minute the referee failed to award us a penalty after Sporting defender clearly handled the ball in the box. In the 78th minute Cuenca had a shot easily saved by the keeper. In the 79th minute Seydou Keita scored a brilliant goal from outside of the box to restore our one goal lead. Guardiola immediately brought in his captain Puyol replacing Cuenca. In the 87th minute Iniesta rode a couple of challenges and chipped the ball over the defense putting his partenr in crime Xavi through who lifted the ball above the keeper to us to 3-1. In the last few minutes we were playing with nine men after Sanchez pulled up his groin while chasing a long ball.

The players were a bit rocked following the expulsion, but they picked up really well and showed why they are the best in the World. The best thing is taht we did with a man less, against a brilliant defensive Gijon and also with Messi missing. Iniesta was without any doubt everyone's man of the match. He scored the opening goal and produced an out of teh world assis for the third one. Also he produce another brilliant assist for Sanchez who couldn't force a goal out of that. In the absence of Messi, Ineista took up the charge of creating the attacking threat and did that throughout the match. Keita was brilliant throughout and capped it with a brilliant goal. The work rate put by other players after the expulsion was simply amazing. Sanchez who had to walk away following the injury was brilliant after his introduction. He played a very crucial part in the build up of second goal. This match showed the heart fo this team and it is clear they are going to fight till the last to win the league.

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