Home » La Liga, Latest » Match Report: Sporting Gijon 1 Barcelona 1

Barcelona’s record 16-match winning run in the Primera Division came to an end on Saturday as they were held to a 1-1 draw by lowly Sporting Gijon.

The result also meant Barcelona failed to win away in the Primera Division for the first time this season.

Relegation-threatened Sporting took the lead through a fine David Barral effort after 16 minutes, and looked as if they may hold on for a shock victory until David Villa’s sublime chip against his former club rescued a point for the Catalans.

With his side’s Champions League quarter-final first-leg tie at Arsenal coming up in London on Wednesday night, Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola opted to rest several of his regular starters.

Pedro, Sergio Busquets and Eric Abidal were all left on the bench, with Ibrahim Affelay, Javier Mascherano and Maxwell drafted into the starting line-up.

There was also a place for Argentinian defender Gabriel Milito, in for the injured Carles Puyol.

Andres Iniesta tried his luck for Barcelona early on, but the visitors were not having things all their own way and Maxwell had to be alert to deny Nacho Novo a shooting opportunity after 12 minutes.

And four minutes later, Sporting stunned the league leaders as they took the lead through Barral.

It was a fine individual strike from the Sporting forward, who took up possession on the left flank and beat both Gerard Pique and Milito before drilling a precise, angled shot low past Victor Valdes and inside the post.

Sporting had won three of their previous four league matches to move out of the relegation zone, but the northerners had been widely expected to lose this one against a side who arrived in Gijon with an unblemished away record and a seven-point lead over Real Madrid at the top of the Primera Division.

Sporting had lost 1-0 at the Nou Camp earlier this season, but were later accused by Madrid coach Jose Mourinho of facilitating a Barcelona victory by resting eight first-team players for that clash.

Sporting coach Manolo Preciado defended himself vehemently against those accusations, claiming he sent out the team he thought had the best chance of getting a result at the Nou Camp.

Just maybe, however, Preciado will have felt he had a point to prove in this match.

That was apparently transmitted on the pitch as his players continued to look relatively comfortable following Barral’s strike.

Nevertheless, they needed a fine save from goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar to deny Iniesta 12 minutes before the break.

Cuellar was the hero again 13 minutes into the second period, when he got down well to deny Dani Alves after the Brazil right-back had stormed into the area unchallenged.

The Sporting goalkeeper also saved twice from Lionel Messi as Barcelona, improved since the half-time introduction of Pedro in place of Affelay, pressed for an equaliser.

It finally came 11 minutes from time when Villa, who began his career at Sporting, latched on to Messi’s through-ball and chipped exquisitely over Cuellar, who had come racing off his line.

Xavi went close with a long-range effort at the death, but Barcelona were unable to secure a 17th straight Primera Division win or what would have been an 11th consecutive away victory in the league.

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