Love set for FC Barcelona in 6–0 shutout of Sporting de Gijón

Barça have now scored 14 goals in their last two games in La Liga. / VÍCTOR SALGADO - FCB
Luis Suárez’s second straight four-goal show leads side to victory; Barça three wins from La Liga crown

If Luis Suárez were a car, he’d be a 4×4. His rugged, all-terrain style of play is one reason, the other being his propensity to pack a payload in the goal scoring department.

Luis Suárez scored four times for the second game in a row, this time getting all four in the game’s final 30 minutes, to lead FC Barcelona to a 6–0 shellacking of visiting Sporting Gijón in front of 77,299 fans on a humid Saturday night at Camp Nou.

In doing so, Suárez also took over sole possession of first place on the race for the both the Pichichi Trophy — for the top scorer in La Liga — as well as the Golden Shoe, which goes to the top scorer in Europe’s domestic leagues.

Lionel Messi opened the scoring for Barça but it took quite a while longer until Suárez notched his first — and FCB’s second — of the evening. Suárez then scored three more times before the final whistle, twice on penalty kicks, while Neymar chipped in with a penalty kick of his own as the so-called trident provided the fuel Barça needed to storm to the late rout.

The victory keeps FC Barcelona even on points with Atlético Madrid at the top of the La Liga table, though Barça hold a substantial advantage on goal-differential. The win also snaps Barça’s two-home home skid.

Messi gave the Catalans a 1–0 advantage in the 13th minute, cleaning up with a long-range header from just inside the penalty area — his 25th La Liga goal of the season — after Sporting goalkeeper Iván Cuéllar erred by coming too far off his line in an attempt to fist away Andrés Iniesta’s lob to a streaking Suárez. Suárez and Cuéllar tumbled to the turf and Messi calmly waited for the bounce before head butting the ball over everyone and into the net from 15 meters.

With so much on the line at this point in the season, the players were cognizant that clinging to the narrowest of leads would not suffice.

Sporting almost drew level just before half-time but Javier Mascherano and Gerard Piqué, with their feet on the goal-line, heroically foiled a rare, double-attempt by Sporting.

Clinging to the smallest of leads, Barça came out looking for more after the break. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until the 63rd that Barça would extend the lead.

Messi, once again enjoying all sorts of space in the middle of the pitch, culminated a pair of marauding runs by sliding the ball off to Iniesta, who passed up the shot and threaded a pass through the goalmouth where Suárez tapped in for the two-goal advantage.

The goal was Suárez’s 31st of the season in La Liga, putting him into first place in not jus the league scoring chart but also the race for the Golden Shoe.

Barça’s third goal came after Neymar’s cross in the 73rd was batted down by a Sporting defender along the byline and inside the area. Suárez went top shelf with the spot kick and scored, getting his 32nd goal in the process and giving him sole possession of the league and European scoring lead.

Barely three minutes later, in the 76th, Neymar was knocked over as he bore down on the Sporting goal, handing Barça another penalty kick. Suárez took this one as well, and went high again, beating Cuéllar to make it 4–0 and earning him some breathing room on the domestic and continental goal scoring lists.

In less than 15 minutes, what had been a tense, long-held 1–0 lead abruptly became a rout, giving the 77,299 fans the perfect nightcap after a long festive day celebrating the Sant Jordi holiday, a joyous day of celebration in Catalan culture.

In the 85th, Sporting’s Ognjen Vranješ was booked for the second time on the evening for a foul on Neymar in the midst of a jump ball in the area. A third penalty kick was awarded and, this time, it was Neymar himself who took the kick. He didn’t go high — or left, or right — but low and right down the middle, bamboozling Cuéllar as the goalkeeper dove right. That goal made it 5–0.

Suárez added his fourth of the night in the 88th with a near-post shot that ricocheted off the near post to Cuéllar’s right.