Barcelona vs. Sporting Gijón  3 - 1

Article

Alves: Pique has every right to be angry

4 March 2012 17:20

Dani Alves believes Barcelona team-mate Gerard Pique has a right to feel aggrieved over his dismissal in their 3-1 win over Sporting Gijon.

Pique was issued a straight red card by referee Carlos Velasco Carballo after bundling over Miguel de las Cuevas as the striker attempted to get in on goal in the early stages of the second half on Saturday.

The Spain international was enraged by his sending off and had to be restrained by Alves, who admitted afterwards he could understand his colleague's frustration.

"Talking about the referees is a lost cause," the Brazil international said.

"(But) Gerard Pique has his reasons to be angry."

Alves preferred instead to focus on the fact that Barca had demonstrated impressive resilience and character in reducing their deficit to La Liga leaders Real Madrid to seven points.

"We have to value the great work we did tonight," the right-back said. "We're happy because we don't have a margin of error."

"We have to keep on going with this attitude and with it we'll keep our title hopes alive."

Given their struggles in seeing off Sporting - even with 11 players on the field - Alves believes they can ill afford to lose Lionel Messi for any more matches, with the Argentine having missed the game at Camp Nou through suspension.

"It's obvious when Messi isn't on the pitch," the former Sevilla man said. "He's the best player in the world."

Barcelona must now turn their attention to the Champions League as they welcome Bayer Leverkusen to Catalunya on Wednesday for the second leg of their last-16 tie.

Article

Guardiola hails Keita

4 March 2012 10:44

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has lavished praise on Seydou Keita after their 3-1 win over Sporting Gijon on Saturday.

With the game at Camp Nou tied at 1-1 and Barca down to 10 men following the dismissal of defender Gerard Pique, Keita put the hosts ahead with a stunning strike with just over 11 minutes remaining, before Xavi sealed a crucial win just before the full-time whistle.

Keita's intervention, in what was his first start since November after representing Mali at the Africa Cup of Nations, was key and Guardiola said he hopes the forward – who has been linked with a move away from the club – stays.

"This is a guy who never plays poorly and who always makes the right decision," Guardiola said.

"There are many players who, when they lose the confidence of a coach, are offended. They feel that they are the centre of the universe and do not understand that the coach does it (drops them) for the good of the team."

"But one of the most wonderful things in these four years is to have met a guy like him."

"Today I'm happy that he has had such a huge game and scored a great goal. The work he does makes my job easier and I hope he will stay here as long as possible."

Guardiola, though, was also keen to pay tribute to the rest of his players for the resilience they displayed in difficult circumstances against Sporting.

"We won a match against a very defensive side in a match that turned against us," he said. "I'm happy with how the players reacted. The players took a step forward tonight."

"It's very necessary to win games like this throughout the year. The way this game was won reinforces our morale."

“We now have to try and enjoy our next game as we try to get to the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the fourth year in a row."

Barca take a 3-1 lead into the second leg of their round-of-16 clash with Bayer Leverkusen at Camp Nou on Wednesday night.

Article

La Liga wrap: 10-man Barca escape with win

4 March 2012 04:19

Barcelona carved out a much needed 3-1 win over lowly Sporting Gijon on Saturday despite the absence of suspended star Lionel Messi.

Pep Guardiola's men moved within seven points of La Liga leaders Real Madrid with second-half goals from Seydou Keita and Xavi after they had looked in real danger of dropping points following Gerard Pique's dismissal and David Barral's equaliser moments later.

Andres Iniesta tapped home after a trademark Barcelona move to end a spell of frustration for the hosts in the 42nd minute.

However, their advantage was short lived and disaster struck soon after half-time when Pique was sent off for a tangle on the edge of the box with Miguel de las Cuevas moments before Barral deflected in at the near post in the 49th minute.

Barcelona probed without their usual incisiveness and found the breakthrough 11 minutes from time with Keita's superb curling shot from the edge of the area.

With Sporting's resistance broken, Xavi added a third in the 88th minute with a clever chipped finish past the encroaching Juan Pablo Colinas.

Meanwhile, Malaga moved past Levante into the Champions League qualifying spot with 3-1 win at Getafe.

Eliseu Pereira scored one goal and provided an assist as Manuel Pellegrini's men clawed their way back from a first-half deficit following Diego Castro's strike.

Substitute Eliseu made an immediate impact after coming on at half-time with his 25-yard strike making it 1-1 before he teed up Jeremy Toulalan for Malaga's second.

Santi Cazorla then wrapped up the scoring with a stunning strike from distance for Malaga's third.

Sevilla and Atletico Madrid shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw between the mid-table sides.

Eduardo Salvio silenced the home crowd when he opened the scoring for Atletico in the ninth minute but Papa Babacar Diawara pounced for Sevilla just after half-time to make it 1-1.

Sixth-placed Osasuna were denied a rare away win at Mallorca after Emilio Nsue's equaliser in a 1-1 draw.

Alvaro Cejudo had given Osasuna the lead with a low drive from the penalty area on the stroke of half-time.

Rayo Vallecano took advantage of 10-man Racing Santander with a flurry of goals in a 4-2 win.

Gonzalo Colsa put Racing two goals to the good in the first half despite goalkeeper Tono being sent off earlier in just the third minute.

Rayo's Miguel Perez Cuesta equalised on the stroke of half-time and added a second in the 64th minute to level it at 2-2. Further strikes from Raul Tamudo and Piti wrapped up the win against a stretched Racing.

Primera División table

# Team MP D P
1 38 +89 100
2 38 +85 91
3 38 +15 61
4 38 +1 58
5 38 +7 56
6 38 +4 55
7 38 -17 54
8 38 -4 52
9 38 +1 50
10 38 -3 49
11 38 -11 47
12 38 -6 47
13 38 -9 47
14 38 -10 46
15 38 -20 43
16 38 -25 43
17 38 -21 42
18 38 -14 41
19 38 -27 37
20 38 -35 27