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Barcelona Beat Sporting Gijon, Valencia Draws With Atletico Mdrid

Defending Spanish Primera Liga champions Barcelona claimed an unconvincing 1-0 win over lowly Sporting Gijon at the Nou Camp on Wednesday (Sept 22). A David Villa goal at the start of the second half made
PTI September 23, 2010 14:42 IST
PTI
Defending Spanish Primera Liga champions Barcelona claimed an unconvincing 1-0 win over lowly Sporting Gijon at the Nou Camp on Wednesday (Sept 22).

A David Villa goal at the start of the second half made the difference for the Catalan side, who sorely missed the creative skills of injured playmaker Lionel Messi, in what was an untidy and uninspiring performance.

However, the home side claimed all three points at the final whistle to move up to third in the table, a point adrift of league leaders Real Madrid and Valencia, whereas Gijon drop to 13th.  

Barca, playing without the injured Lionel Messi, surprisingly lost to promoted side Hercules in their last home fixture and began the game in sixth place, with six points from a possible nine.  

Sporting had four points so far and were beaten in their only away match, 4-0 to Atletico, on the opening weekend of the season.  The Catalan side were far from convincing in the opening half as they struggled for creativity.

David Villa was the biggest threat and went close after 20 minutes following a dazzling run down the left flank that ended with a low drive towards that near post - but Sporting goalkeeper Ivan Pichu was equal to the 28-year-old World Cup winner's strike.  

The crowds - and Lionel Messi's attention - wandered for the remainder of an uninspiring half, which ended goalless.  After a disappointing first half the home side moved up a gear shortly after the restart.

Dani Alves was pivotal in 'Pep' Guardiola's side maintaining possesion, before the Brazilian right back released Villa.  He made one of his trademark runs into the penalty area and thrashed the ball past the stranded Pichu.  Despite the apparent gulf in the pedigree of the sides, Barca struggled to score a second goal.  

Dani Alves raced into the box inside the final ten minutes, after another long period of Barcelona possesion, to nod down a powerful header - that flashed just wide of the post.  

It was the last genuine chance of the match that saw a disappointing - but depleted - Barcelona side claim a crucial 1-0 victory to give their recently derailed title charge a timely boost.  Barcelona moved up into third in the table, a point adrift of league leaders Real Madrid and Valencia.  

In the other match,  Aritz Aduritz scored with an 83rd-minute header as Valencia came from behind to draw 1-1 against Atletico Madrid at the Mestalla on Wednesday (Sept 22).

The visitors had gone ahead in the 18th minute thanks to a Simao strike.  The point leaves Valencia second in the La Liga standings, level on ten points with leaders Real Madrid, who have a better goal difference, and one place ahead of Barcelona.  

The Mestalla stadium was close to capacity as two of La Liga's form teams - Valencia and Atletico Madrid - went toe-to-toe on Wednesday.  

Visitor's Atletico were on the back foot from the first whistle, but took the lead thanks to a stunning counter-attack.  A Valencia corner went horribly wrong and Diego Forlan took over - picking out the run of Antonio Lopez with a beautifully weighed ball.  He in turn found Simao - and the Portuguese gave Atletico the lead.  

Forlan should have doubled the visitors' advantage but, after doing the hard work, mis-controlled and allowed the ball to run out.  It was a chance the Uruguayan would have buried in the World Cup finals in South Africa.  

The second half was all one-way traffic as unbeaten Valencia desperately searched for an equaliser - but found Atletico's teenage goalkeeper David de Gea in inspirational form.  

First Juanma Mata saw his shot from range expertly turned wide, before de Gea denied a long range effort by Robert Soldado from finding the back of the net.  They were just two of a number of saves the Atletico 'keeper made.  But, eventually, Atletico's resolve broke.

David Albelda battled down the right wing and his cross found the head of Aritz Aduritz, and the Basque out-muscled Luis Perea to head home the equaliser.  It ended 1-1, and the point was enough to move Valencia level on points with leaders Real Madrid at the top of the Spanish standings.  AP