Villa's magic saves a point (1-1)
FC Barcelona picked up a valuable point at El Molinón thanks to a beautiful finish from Villa just ten minutes from the end. Barça had trailed for the whole game after Barral’s early opener.
FC Barcelona (FCB).- Barça\u2019s amazing run of 16 league wins has come to an end, as has their one hundred per cent away record. Sporting put up a tremendous display while FC Barcelona\u2019s first half performance in particular was somewhat below the standard we have come to expect. As a result it is one, and not three points, that they are bringing back from El Molinón. An early goal from Barral meant that Barça were losing a league game for the first time in four months (the last time was on October 16 at home to Valencia) against a side that did nothing but defend for the second 45 minutes.
That helped Barça get back into their usual rhythm, and with Sporting pinned back in their area it seemed it was only a matter of time before the visitors found the net. The goal finally came through Villa just ten minutes from the end, meaning Barça had managed to save a point to enjoy an overnight lead of 8 points on Real Madrid, who play away to Espanyol on Sunday.
Barral counter attack
Sporting opted for a speedy start to the game, and as a result Barcelona struggled to get into their usual confident stride. Without being able to hold on to the possession, they were caught out time and again by dangerous Sporting counter attacks. It was on one of these that Barral danced off on a brilliant solo run to put his side a goal ahead. Everything was going to plan for the home side.
Sporting\u2019s direct, physical approach had the referee dipping into his pocket four times in the first half to issue two yellow cards to each team. The game just wasn\u2019t flowing the way Barça like it, but as the minutes ticked by, their intensity was increased, although they were lacking the final touch and by half time, Sporting keeper Cuéllar had barely been called upon to intervene. Surely things could only get better in the second half.
A different game
Pedro replaced Afellay at half time, and this seemed to add a new kind of energy to the team. Barça\u2019s performance was much brighter, and they moved up their lines to increase the intense pressure on the Sporting goal. Xavi, Alves and Messi all had clear chances to equalise, but each time they were thwarted by an outstanding Cuéllar. Guardiola wanted more, and Keita was substituted by Milito.
Villa seals the draw
By now the game was a constant onslaught on the Sporting area, and such insistence eventually paid off. Messi supplied the ball to Villa, who spotted Cuéllar off his line and chipped delicately over the keeper to make it 1-1. The Asturian respectfully refused to celebrate against his former club. There were still ten minutes to go, and Barça threw all they could at Sporting in search of a late winner, and Pedro squandered the best of the many chances, but there was to be no further score in a high-tension finale and the spoils were eventually shared.
1-0, Barral (min 16)
1-1, Villa (min 79)