MADRID (AP) – An early goal by Adriano proved enough for Barcelona to win 1-0 at Sporting Gijon on Sunday and return to the top of the Spanish league standings.
Adriano fired the winner in the 12th minute after Xavi's shot hit the post. Barcelona had few problems securing the win against the league's bottom club despite a lackluster second-half performance.
Victory moved Barcelona to 14 points from six games, with a better goal difference than Levante, which continued its fine start to the season with a 1-0 win at Real Betis.
Real Madrid can pull within a point of the leaders in Sunday's late match at Espanyol.
Also Sunday, Sevilla drew 0-0 at Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao won 2-1 at Real Sociedad for its first league victory of the season.
Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola opted for the 3-4-3 formation he has experimented with several times this season for the trip to Gijon.
Captain Carles Puyol started on the bench after picking up a right side injury in the Champions League last week, with usual center back partner Gerard Pique, who has had his own injury problems recently, also a substitute.
David Villa seemed the most likely candidate to give Barcelona an early lead as he looked for a goal against the club where he began his career as a youth player.
Villa thrashed a left-footed shot narrowly over the bar in the 10th and was denied twice in less than a minute shortly after when Sporting goalkeeper Juan Pablo blocked his shot and the Spain striker screwed a shot wide from a follow-up chance.
Sporting had barely touched the ball when Barcelona scored. Xavi received the ball 30 yards (meters) from goal and cracked a shot that hit the post and rebounded to Adriano to finish first time into the far corner.
Barcelona monopolized possession as expected, but Sporting striker Oscar Trejo headed weakly wide in the 22nd minute and Roberto Canella finally gave Victor Valdes some exercise with a shot in first-half stoppage time.
Barcelona had drawn its last two away matches and seemed content to hold the ball in a second half of few clear openings.
Eric Abidal limped off with an apparent thigh injury and was replaced by Maxwell in the 56th to add to Barcelona's injury worries. Pique replaced Pedro soon after as Guardiola reverted to a more familiar 4-3-3 formation.
An unusually subdued Lionel Messi had a header saved by Juan Pablo in the 76th and Dani Alves had the ball in the back of the net as the clock ticked down, but the offside flag had already been raised.
Earlier Sunday, a first-half goal by Juanlu gave Levante a 1-0 win at Real Betis on Sunday in a match between two surprise early pacesetters in the Spanish league.
Juanlu scored in the 33rd minute to moved Levante to 14 points - equal with Barca and one ahead of Malaga and Valencia, which both had wins on Saturday.
''It's nice (to be top of the league), but it's anecdotal,'' said Levante coach Juan Ignacio Jimenez. ''The run we are in is super-difficult and above all today against an opponent that has such a good team.''
Newly promoted Betis started the weekend as league leader but remained on 12 points after its first home defeat of the season.
Sevilla also moved to 12 points after a scoreless draw at Atletico Madrid.
Former Arsenal forward Jose Antonio Reyes had a clear opportunity to break the deadlock for Atletico, but curled his shot wide despite having time and space, 12 yards (meters) out.
''We put out more onto the pitch than Sevilla and we were worthy of the victory, but analyzing the work of the team, I can only thank my players for the effort they made,'' said Atletico coach Gregorio Manzano, who moved from Sevilla to Madrid in the offseason.
The draw left Atletico in midtable with eight points.
In San Sebastian, Llorente opened the scoring in the 34th minute with a smart turn in the box to give Athletic a halftime lead in the Basque derby against Sociedad.
Inigo Martinez scored the equalizer with an impressive effort from the halfway line in the 61st, but Llorente gave Athletic coach Marcelo Bielsa his first league win since joining the club in the offseason with his second from a 70th-minute volley.
In Saturday's results, it was: Racing Santander 1, Rayo Vallecano 1; Villarreal 2, Zaragoza 2; Osasuna 2, Mallorca 2; Valencia 1, Granada 0 and Malaga 3, Getafe 2.