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Goals Galore In Gijón For Barcelona

Sporting Gijon 1 - 6 Barcelona

By far Barça's best performance of the season saw them utterly stun Sporting with a thrilling win at El Molinón...

Barcelona came into the match with just one point from their opening two league matches, and they were desperate to kick start their campaign with a solid victory. There were brief glimpses of class in the 3-1 Champions League victory over Sporting in midweek, giving Pep Guardiola a degree of optimism that his players were beginning to find their stride.

Sporting, despite losing their opening two matches, have been slightly unlucky to do so, and fought valiantly in Seville on La Liga matchday two, before eventually succumbing to a 4-3 defeat.

Sporting started with the divisions’ top scorer Bilic up front on his own, while midfielder Sergio Busquets surprisingly kept his place for the Blaugrana ahead of Bojan. Thierry Henry missed out due to a throat infection, so Eto’o once more spearheaded the attack.

First Half

Barcelona began brightly, with Xavi (2’) bringing out a smart save from Sanchez, with the big keeper saving low at his near post with Eto’o lurking in the vicinity.

Bilic caused Abidal some brief concern early on, while at the other end Messi (12’) carved himself a glimpse of an opportunity, but Sanchez dealt with his effort from twenty yards comfortably.

The home fans then became incensed as Bilic (17’) went down heavily under a challenge from Busquets. Replays show Busquets clearly took the ball, and after some gesturing and eventually hobbling from the field, he unsurprisingly returned moments later moving freely.

To give some idea of the gulf in quality, Barca has spent around 90m Euros this summer, to Gijon’s mere 100,000. But for all the away sides’ early dominance of possession and slick interplay, Sporting did not become unnerved and stuck staunchly to their task of keeping their illustrious opponents at bay.

Then Barca raised the tempo.

Messi began marauding around with his usual menacing nature. He skipped past two defenders in the box but dragged his shot across goal. Still, he was moving through the gears and represented Barcelona’s purposeful opening.

This was highlighted moments later as the Argentinean scooped it wide to Iniesta, who’s beautiful first touch took the ball into his stride, but his shot was deflected inches wide for a corner. As the corner count mounted, it appeared to be a matter of time, and minutes later the deadlock was broken. Iniesta turned Sastre inside out before chipping the ball to a completely unmarked Xavi (27’), who nodded home from eight yards. It was too easy – and no more than Barcelona deserved.

Victor Valdes had become a spectator as the Catalan side camped in the home sides half. They smelled blood, and knew a second goal would end this match as a contest. It wasn’t long in coming. Xavi swung in yet another corner, Puyol leapt to head goalwards, and Eto’o (33’) used all of his striking instincts to nod home from underneath the crossbar. 2-0 after thirty three minutes, and the aforementioned gulf in quality was plain to see. Barca had turned a potentially tricky away fixture into a procession before half time.

Sporting enjoyed a spell of possession before half-time, but only because they were given time to do so by Barcelona. They did briefly rally when Diego Castro went down under a challenge from Marquez, but only a corner was given. Barca regained control, and but for a poor touch by Iniesta (44’) after he was played in by Messi, it would have been three. Half-time and no-one in El Molinon could argue with the scoreline.

Second Half

The second half began as the first had ended - Messi on the move. He skipped down the left, but seeing no support in the centre, jinked inside two, three, four then five defenders before striking a shot which deflected for a corner. Xavi swung the ball in, and the unfortunate Jorge (47’), headed past his own goalkeeper. 3-0 to the Blaugrana.

Game over? It should have been. But only minutes later, Gijon breathed new life into the contest as new signing Maldonado (50’) notched his first goal for the club. Bilic barged the ball into his path, and he slotted past Valdes from ten yards. The home fans went wild, and Barca once again showed their defensive frailties. You felt at this stage that a period of concerted pressure could give Puyol et al some serious problems.

But all hopes were extinguished soon after, as Gerard (56’) lunged in on Messi who had been clear on goal. A straight red card, and Gijon, who struggled to get near Barcelona with their full complement, now had to do it with ten men.

The match was over as a contest, with Gijon reshuffling to cope with the red card, and Barca happy to spray the ball around. Eto’o and Kieta had half chances, before Iniesta and that man Messi produced a picture-book fourth goal. The little Argentinean flicked a delicate pass through the Gijon defence and Iniesta (69’) burst through to dink the ball past the helpless Sanchez. Against ten men or not, some of Barcelona’s play was simply sublime and this was the goal that represented a real return of the understanding and awareness the players had showed so often under Frank Rijkaard.

You had to feel a little sorry for Sporting Gijon, and particularly for their fantastic supporters who continued to cheer on their side even as their opponents struck home goal after goal. They were a true credit to their club. The problem was that the Catalan side were always going to regain their rhythm at some point this season, and it was simply a case of who would be on the receiving end. Tonight, they clicked, and with Lionel Messi in this kind of imperious form, very few defences in the world will get anywhere near him. And five minutes from the end he got the goal his play deserved. Iniesta, who was also excellent tonight, crossed from the left, and the deflection on the cross took the ball into Messi’s(85’) path and he volleyed home from six yards.

But he wasn’t finished yet. Four minutes later Xavi chipped it to the penalty spot and Messi (89’) headed home powerfully. Both he and Barcelona were simply fantastic, and the rest of La Liga should take note of this master-class in attacking football. Barca are back.

0-1 Xavi 26'
0-2 Eto'o 32'
0-3 Jorge (og) 47'
1-3 Maldonado 50'
1-4 Iniesta 69'
1-5 Messi 85'
1-6 Messi 89'

Sporting (4-5-1): Sanchez; Sastre, Camara, Jorge, Canella; Matabuena (Michel 45’), Gerard, Diego Castro, Maldonado (Kike Mateo 62’), Carmello; Bilic (David Barral 58’)

Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdes; Dani Alves, Puyol, Marquez, Abidal; Busquets (Caceres 81’), Xavi, Kieta (Gudjohnsen 71’); Iniesta, Messi, Eto’o (Bojan 68’)

Booked: Camara (7’), Carmelo (40’)

Sent Off: Gerard (56’)

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Marvellous Milan Crush Lazio

Milan 4-1 Lazio

Kaka and Gianluca Zambrotta both scored stunning long-range goals as Milan got off the mark in Serie A with a crushing 4-1 win over Lazio at San Siro.

Team News

Milan came into this game knowing that they simply had to win otherwise they would fall six points or more behind Scudetto rivals Inter and Juventus. The Rossoneri, who were on zero points, were without the injured Alessandro Nesta, Pippo Inzaghi, Tabare Viudez, Andrea Pirlo, and Philippe Senderos. Coach Carlo Ancelotti employed a 4-1-3-2 formation with Kaha supporting front pairing Alexandre Pato and Marco Borriello. Rino Gattuso returned in midfield following his recent injury layoff.

Visitors Lazio had been top-of-the-table, with six points out of six, until they were overtaken by Inter and Juve this afternoon. The Biancocelesti also had a few injuries, with Fabio Firmani, Simone Del Nero, Tommaso Rocchi and Ousmane Dabo sidelined. Coach Delio Rossi made just one change to the team who beat Sampdoria 2-0 with Matuzalem coming in for Mourad Meghni in midfield.

First Half

Lazio had a penalty shout within the first 20 seconds as Stefano Mauri went down under pressure from Gianluca Zambrotta, following a weak back pass by the latter, but the referee waved away the appeals. It was a fiery start and down the other end Massimo Ambrosini failed to get enough onto his header at the back post from Clarence Seedorf's cross.

On five minutes Milan put together a neat team move and Kaka crossed low for Borriello's flick-through-the-legs, but Juan Pablo Carrizo was well placed.

This was a warning of things to come as 90 seconds later Milan were ahead. There was a bit of luck involved as Seedorf tried to play a one-two on the edge of the area, and his pass rebounded off Cristian Ledesma to put him through on goal. The Dutchman's finish was emphatic as he thumped the ball past Carrizo and into the roof of the net.

Lazio tried to hit back and Goran Pandev got away from Kakha Kaladze, but Paolo Maldini made a crucial block on Mauro Zarate's snap-shot inside the area. Mauri then tested Abbiati from 25 yards as Lazio started to work their way into the game.

The capital side were looking more and more threatening, and on 25 minutes they silenced the San Siro with an equaliser. Inevitably it was Zarate who got the goal, as he beat the offside the trap on Pandev's pass and rifled home a clinical left footed finish past Abbiati.

It was an entertaining game and Milan immediately threatened to regain their lead as Pato cut inside his man from the right, and brought out a smart stop from Carrizo. Kaka then floated an inviting ball to the back post, and Borriello was close to getting his head to the ball.

Kaka burst into life on 31 minutes with a superb solo run past a number of defenders, but he couldn't find the finish and sliced the ball wide from the left angle.

A few minutes later Milan were back ahead courtesy of a contender for goal of the season. Zambrotta bombed forward and let fly from way out on the right, at least 35 yards, and the ball arrowed into the far top corner like a ballistic missile. It was a simply incredible strike from the Italy international.

Milan now went looking for the third, and on 40 minutes Kaka exchanged passed with Borriello before thrashing the ball a couple of feet over from the edge of the area.

Lazio had been quiet ever since Zarate's temporary equaliser, with Aleksandar Kolarov's two off-target free kicks the away side's only two remaining efforts as Milan went into the break 2-1 ahead.

Second Half

Into the second half and Lazio started strongly. Mauri was almost through on goal immediately, but he miscontrolled the ball and the danger passed. Zarate then curled a free kick over the bar.

However, it was Milan who extended their lead on 49 minutes. Jankulovski crossed from the left, and Pato darted in front of Rozenhal at the near post to head home.

Lazio refused to get downhearted, and Mauri asked for a penalty after clashing with Zambrotta in the box, but again the referee didn't want to know.

On 56 minutes Milan put together a fantastic move, and Kaka curled a beautiful effort towards the far post, but Carrizo flew across goal to push the ball away.

Moments later Kaka did indeed get his goal, and it was well worth waiting for. The Brazilian picked the ball up 30 yards out and fired an unstoppable shot into the top corner. Milan were now turning on the style!

The home side continued to push forward, and could have grabbed a fifth on 74 minutes as Borriello raced through on goal, but Carrizo pulled off a fine save.

Down the other end Lazio had a great chance to pull a goal back as Pandev held off Ambrosini, but Abbiati produced a smart reaction stop.

Kaka had been electrifying all night long, and he went on another slalom run, only to see his finish deflected off target. Down the other end, Foggia shot weakly at Abbiati from 25 yards, as the game moved into the final few minutes.

In injury time Milan twice went close to a fifth as substitute Ronaldinho rattled the crossbar with a deflected effort, before Borriello headed inches wide.

It had been emphatic win for Milan, who answered their critics in the prefect way, and grabbed their first three points of the Serie A season at the third attempt.


Milan: Abbiati, Zambrotta, Kaladze, Maldini, Jankulovski, Gattuso (Emerson 78), Seedorf (Flamini 63), Ambrosini, Kaka, Pato (Ronaldinho 70), Borriello

Lazio: Carrizo, Lichtsteiner, Siviglia, Rozenhal, Kolarov, Matuzalem (Meghni 69), Ledesma, Brocchi (De Silvestri 78), Mauri (Foggia 62), Pandev, Zarate

Anthony Sormani

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