Adriano celebrates the only goal of the match for Barcelona at Sporting Gijon

Story highlights

Barcelona go top of La Liga on goal difference with 1-0 win at Sporting Gijon

Adriano scores only goal of the match in the first half for reigning champions

Levante level on points with Barca after 1-0 win over Real Betis

CNN  — 

Barcelona went top of La Liga with an unimpressive 1-0 win at bottom side Sporting Gijon Sunday.

The reigning Spanish and European champions could not supply their usual brand of free flowing attacking football against obdurate opponents who belied the form which has seen them pick up only one point this season.

With top scorer Lionel Messi well-shackled, Barca’s only goal came after 12 minutes through a deflected shot by Adriano and they struggled to add to their tally.

Eric Abidal went off injured after the break to add to Barcelona’s defensive problems with neither Carlos Puyol or Gerard Pique starting.

Midfielder Cesc Fabregas is also sidelined for up to three weeks through injury.

Sporting manager Manolo Preciado has come under pressure because of poor results, but his team showed they are capable of moving up the table, which is topped by Barcelona on goal difference from Levante.

Real Madrid are one point behind Barca in third position after a Gonzalo Higuain hat-trick helped Jose Mourinho’s team to a 4-0 win at Espanyol.

Argentina’s Higuain opened the scoring after 17 minutes, clipping a shot over Espanyol goalkeeper Cristian Alvarez from Cristiano Ronaldo’s pass. Higuain, 23, added a second goal with 66 minutes gone, rifling a shot into the top corner from a narrow angle.

Substitute Jose Maria Callejon came off the bench to make it 3-0 with eight minutes remaining, before former River Plate forward Higuain grabbed his third goal and Real’s fourth in the final minute of the match.

Unheralded Levante had earlier secured a fourth successive victory as a Juanlu Gomez goal gave them a 1-0 win over Real Betis.

Promoted Betis had won their first four games to top the early standings, but were falling to a second straight defeat.

In other action, Atletico Madrid drew 0-0 with Sevilla in a match between two sides who are set to challenge for Champions League places while Real Madrid could move up to third with a win over Espanyol in the late evening kickoff.