Barcelona hammer Sporting for first win

September 21, 2008

MADRID, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Barcelona earned their first Primera Liga win of the season with a 6-1 rout away to promoted Sporting Gijon on Sunday.

The pressure had been on new coach Pep Guardiola after his side only managed one goal and a point from their opening two games.

A brace from Lionel Messi and one apiece from Xavi, Samuel Eto'o, Jorge into his own net, and Andres Iniesta showed the side are starting to gel.

The win moved Barca into ninth with four points from three games, three behind early pacesetters Valencia, Almeria, Villarreal and Espanyol.

Atletico Madrid are a point back in fifth just ahead of city rivals Real Madrid.

Barca started at a hectic pace against Sporting showing the kind of bite that had been missing from their play the last two seasons.

Iniesta crossed for Xavi to net first with a diving header and Cameroon's Eto'o headed in at a corner in the 33rd. At another corner after the break home defender Jorge headed past his own keeper.

Sporting scored almost immediately through Francisco Maldonado, but lost defender Gerard Autet to a red card soon after, and were chasing shadows for the rest of the game.

Barca crafted wonderful goals for Iniesta and two for Messi in the closing stages.

Earlier, a late goal from Juan Mata gave Valencia a 1-0 home win over 10-man Osasuna that put the top.

The in-form 20-year-old volleyed home David Villa's deep cross just as it seemed the visitors might survive the sending off of Cesar Azpilicueta earlier in the second half.

Almeria beat promoted Malaga 1-0 at home to go second, ahead of Villarreal who came from behind to beat promoted Numancia 2-1 away with well-worked second-half goals from Santi Cazorla and Joseba Llorente.

Numancia, who beat Barca 1-0 and lost 4-3 to Real at the Bernabeu last weekend, made life tough for the visitors though Gorka Brit's header just before the break was scored from an offside position at a freekick.

Espanyol are fourth after drawing 1-1 at home with Getafe on Saturday.

Champions Real demonstrated maximum efficiency in front of goal to see off a well-organised Racing.

Real lost their most effective passer of the ball Guti to an injury just before the break at the Sardinero, which did not bode well for their chances in a game with very little space.

But the visitors broke away to score in the 54th minute when Argentine Gonzalo Higuain burst out of his own half to set up Spain midfielder De la Red for the opener.

Dutch striker Van Nistelrooy surprised Tono at his near post in the 74th in another swift attack, and Real's defence, who have been under the spotlight in recent games, held firm under constant late pressure.