Barcelona see record run ended by strugglers Gijon

Madrid, Feb 13 (AFP) League leaders Barcelona saw theirrecord winning run come to an end with a shock 1-1 draw atSporting Gijon and it could have been worse had David Villanot scored a brilliant 79th-minute equaliser to salvage apoint.

Barcelona had won 16 consecutive league games to beat theold mark of the great Real Madrid side of 1960/61. But thechampions saw their historical sequence broken yesterday andthe two dropped points are a real boost for title rivals Real.

Barcelona are now eight points ahead of Real in theSpanish first division and Jose Mourinho''s side will want tocapitalise on the rare slip by winning at Espanyol on Sunday.

Unfashionable Sporting, two points above the relegationzone, took the lead through David Barral after 16th minutesand Barcelona needed a delightful chip from Villa late on tosnatch a point.

It was the first away points dropped all season forBarcelona, who had won all 10 of their away games prior tothis game, and coach Pep Guardiola will hope for a betterdisplay on Wednesday when his side travel to Arsenal for thefirst leg of their last 16 Champions League tie.

A fired-up Sporting started the better of the two sidesand took a surprise 16th-minute lead as Barral cut inside fromthe left flank and left Gerard Pique in his wake before firinglow into the corner.

Barcelona don''t often go behind and found it difficult torespond against hosts who defended deep in numbers.

The champions didn''t have a noteworthy effort on goaluntil just after the half hour mark when Andres Iniestadribbled past his marker and shot across goal but goalkeeperIvan Cuellar saved well.

On 53 minutes Brazilian right back Dani Alves nipped pasthis man and cut the ball back for Xavi but the Spanishinternational scuffed his shot and Cuellar smothered theeffort. MORE (AFP) PM

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