Sporting 0 Barça 1

FC Barcelona sit top of La Liga going into the international break after a hard-earned 0-1 victory in Gijón tonight. Adriano Correia may not be the most usual match-winner for us but tonight his early strike, after Xavi’s shot had rebounded off the post, proved to be the only goal of the game.

Indeed, it was Adriano who turned out to be the surprise on the teamsheet. With both Piqué and Puyol starting on the bench I have to admit I thought Adriano would be playing at left back with Abidal alongside Mascherano in a four-man defence, but I was wrong. Pep Guardiola surprised me with another adaptation of the 3-4-3 system we have seen this season. At the back we had Alves-Mascherano-Abidal though Alves was not going forward, at least not until the last half hour when we reverted to a 4-3-3 shape. In front of the defence we had Busquets as the defensive point of the midfield with Xavi close by to the right and Thiago on the left. Further forward on the wings we had Adriano on the right with Villa on the left which left Pedro and Messi to combine the false 9 and false 10 positions.

This was all very well and nobody was complaining when we took the lead after 11 minutes. We hadn’t done much up till then apart from a Villa shot over from the left. There didn’t seem much danger when Thiago passed the ball square inside to Xavi, but Xavi let fly from 30 yards and his drive smacked off the left hand post and flew straight into the path of Adriano who fired the ball back towards goal and was slightly fortunate to get a slight deflection which left Sporting keeper Juan Pablo with no chance.

As is often the case we played some of our best football immediately after the first goal. There was one neat combination between Villa and Thiago with Villa forcing Juan Pablo into a diving save, and there was one lovely nutmeg from Messi. Oscar Trejo also showed some neat skill for Sporting but then he headed wide Sporting’s first chance. The game was pretty open at this point as Sporting began to sense Barça’s defence of three wasn’t so solid and soon Alves had to make a vital last ditch tackle as De las Cuevas burst into the area. Though it would be fair to say it was still Barça who looked more likely to score again and Pedro came close to nicking the ball past Juan Pablo as the keeper dashed 30 yards out of his goal. In the 35th minute there appeared to be a pretty blatant penalty on Messi as he dribbled into the area but referee Clos Gomez waved play on.

The game began to look more complicated as we moved into the second half. Alves was close to losing the ball in a dangerous position and had to make an important recovery, and soon after that we needed a superb dash back from Abidal to cover the danger. The defence of three continued to look shaky until Eric Abidal pulled up holding the back of his leg with what looks like another muscle strain. Reports suggest he will be out for 10 days. Guardiola brought on both Piqué and Maxwell and we shuffled back to a 4-3-3 suggesting Guardiola sees certain players as more adept to the back three, but it must be said that we looked more comfortable in the last half hour. Keita came on to bolster things in midfield and Alves was allowed to get forward at last. Our best chance of a second came after Messi played a delightful ball to Adriano who was now playing left wing, but when the cross came in Messi’s header went straight at Juan Pablo. The game ended with Barça controlling things pretty comfortably though with just a goal in it there was always the chance of a costly slip-up.

As things are we can be satisfied with the performance. I am still not very happy with the three-man defence away from home. Yes, I know this system worked for Cruyff’s dream team but every now and again Cruyff’s dream team got turned over. The Pep team has always looked more solid than that without giving up on attacking flair. The three-man defence is a risk-taker which I’m quite happy to see at Camp Nou but I am worried it is going to cost us points away from home.

Barça: Valdés 7; Alves 6.5, Mascherano 8, Abidal 6.5 (Maxwell m53, 6.5); Busquets 7, Xavi 7, Thiago 6.5, Messi 7.5; Adriano 7 (Keita m79, 6.5), Pedro 6.5 (Piqué m54, 6,5), Villa 7.

Goal: m12 Adriano 0-1.

Barça yellow cards: m49 Pedro, m92 Busquets.

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10 Responses to Sporting 0 Barça 1

  1. Simon Harris says:

    It’s a fluid system … 3-4-3 to 4-3-3 depending on the flow of play … Adriano and Alves … and even Mascherano are tactical trump cards … Sporting did an excellent job of adapting to the variations … hats off to Preciado!

    • barcacentralnic says:

      I think it is great that we have such exciting tactical options, i just felt we looked a bit shaky at the back especially from around the 20th minute until we changed it with the double substitution, and for a while I thought we might see a repeat of the Valencia match. Our away form hasn’t impressed me greatly so far this season. Maybe I should be giving more credit to Sporting who did indeed give us a tough game.

  2. barcacentralroger says:

    Nice write up Nic – tough match and definitely concur that Masch was man of the match for us. We really need to get some of our players back from injury as we head into more weeks with two games to play – basically we looked tired, with even Messi somewhat lazy on the ball. In fact felt bad for Villa, who despite getting caught offside more times than he should, he was making runs all night and getting little service.

  3. barcacentralnic says:

    For anyone who hasn’t seen the goal yet – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VL5ZSM8JGdc&feature=player_embedded

  4. abo qassim says:

    its bad game to barca 3-4-3 its slow play and no chance to score more gols
    anyway its 3 point batar than nathing

  5. Caleb says:

    Masch was awesome again. If Puyol and Pique are 100% do we really take Masch out? I don’t want to be the one to make that decision.

    If I were to highlight a problem with our play I would make a case for poor passing and lack of intent offensively. We may have looked a wee bit shaky at the back, but if we wouldn’t have played so many poor passes we wouldn’t have had to defend so often. Villa was working hard, but it didn’t seem like many others were really determined to get on the score sheet. Messi does have to be wondering how to get a penalty awarded. Unbelievable stuff there. Not sure Pedro can effectively play the false 10… Not having Iniesta or Fabregas hurts, but having both of them out really does have a marked impact on the team.

    I’m rambling now. In the end, three points and our first away win. Let’s hope we can get right back on the horse after this international break. At least its two weeks of non-real-time to help our injured players recover. Hopefully none of our healthy ones return injured.

  6. Fredegar says:

    Well, it’s still a better result than we got there last year, and we also beat them with just the single goal at home, so that’s three good points in the bag!
    Just a thought about Madrid to underline how good we’ve been these last three years: they do in reality begin the championship with an advantage of something like five points on us, considering that neither Espanyol nor Atletico will take any points off them while they will give their best against us (only at home for Atletico, agreed…). Must say I’m a bit pissed by this Espanyol’s attitude. And I can’t see a team for wich the reverse works. Maybe Mallorca, and the Basque generally fight harder against Madrid, but that doesn’t stop them to take points off us either…

    • barcacentralnic says:

      i can’t say I’m convinced by the argument that Espanyol don’t try against Madrid. I admit i didn’t see their game as I was busy writing this report however over the years Espanyol have a fairly respectable home record against Madrid. As for Atletico I admit I have often been exasperated especially by their home performances in their local derbies but it doesn’t usually have anything to do with effort.

  7. Fredegar says:

    So I had to check. Last time Espanyol took points off Madrid was actually at the Bernabeu, in september 2008. Since then, they’ve lost 6 games on the trot, scoring a grand total of 0 goal (for 16 conceded…)
    Must admit they won their home game in 2007-8 as well as in 2005-6 and in 2004-5 (that’s how far the stats I checked went back, and they were only for the league, I don’t remeber if they met in the Cup during this period).
    I still think that 6 games without scoring a goal doesn’t say they are trying too hard. For Atleti of course that’s another problem, can they turn it this year?

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