A player of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring in a game with Sporting Gijon, March, 3, 2012. FC Barcelona defeated Sporting Gijon 3-1 in the Camp Nou. [Xinhua/AFP Photo]
FC Barcelona survived being without the suspended Leo Messi and playing the second half of their game with 10 men after Gerard Pique was sent off to defeat Sporting Gijon 3-1 in the Camp Nou.
The win takes Barca to within seven points of Real Madrid, who entertain Espanyol on Sunday.
Sporting coach Javier Clemente began the game without a striker in his side and a packed defense to try and stop Barcelona.
The Catalans had two good penalty appeals turned down in the first half before Andres Iniesta opened the scoring following a typical slide-rule move from the reigning league champions.
The game looked to be clearly going Barca's way, but it changed radically in the first minute of the second half, when Gerard Pique was sent off for supposedly bringing down Miguel de las Cuervas. It looked a harsh decision and more so when David Barral turned home a low cross from the resulting free kick.
Barca lost their shape and were unable to break down a well organized Sporting until Keita scored a fine left foot shot with 11 minutes remaining. It was his first league goal of the season.
Xavi Hernandez sealed the win after linking with Andres Iniesta two minutes from time. The midfielder took a magnificent through ball and clipped the ball over the keeper into the net.
Sevilla and Atletico Madrid drew 1-1 in a game between two sides with European ambitions. Eduardo Salvio scored a neat header after nine minutes to put the visitors ahead, but Baba Diawara equalized with his first goal for Sevilla eight minutes into the second half.
Rayo Vallecano came back from 2-0 down to notch an impressive 4-2 win at home to relegation haunted Racing Santander. Racing found themselves down to 10 men in just the second minute after goalkeeper Tono was shown a direct red card, but took a surprise lead through Marc Torrejon and Gustavo Colsa.
However, as they tired Rayo roared back into the game. Michu scored just before halftime and netted a second to level the game at 2-2, before Raul Tamudo and Piti assured the win.
Mallorca and Osasuna drew 1-1 with Emilio Nsue's second half strike cancelling out Alvaro Cejudo's opener for the visitors.
Meanwhile Malaga moved into the top four after fighting back from a goal down to win 3-1 in Getafe. Diego Castro put Getafe ahead towards the end of the first half, but magnificent goals from Eliseu Pereira, Jeremy Toulalan and Santi Cazorla gave Malaga their reward for a much improved second half display.