Barcelona made it two wins out of two at the start of the La Liga season after a tight 1-0 victory over a hard-working Malaga side at Estadio La Rosaleda.
The Catalan club started the game without Lionel Messi in the squad, but Adriano’s 44th minute strike sealed a victory for the second weekend running.
Malaga made them work for the result and could have grabbed a point, but Fabrice failed to make Barcelona pay when he hit the post on the second half.
Cesc Fabregas was chosen as the replacement for Messi in a false nine position and he could have headed Barca in front after 18 minutes. Adriano got forward from right-back and swung in a cross, but the Spanish midfielder couldn’t provide a powerful enough header and Willy Caballero made a simple save. Just after, Andreas Iniesta danced through two midfield challenges, but couldn’t beat Caballero from 20 yards out.
It wasn’t all Barcelona though as Malaga were dangerous with the chances they were afforded. Antunes tried to catch Victor Valdes out at the near post with a free-kick from 30 yards out, but the Spanish goalkeeper did brilliantly to get across and tip the low shot around the post.
Caballero was having a busy night, but fumbled a Gerard Pique header from Xavi’s corner. Fortunately for the Malaga goalkeeper, he could grasp the ball at the second attempt before anybody bundled Barca in front. That relief lasted under a minutes though, as the away side grabbed the lead with a minute to go until half-time.
Adriano came inside onto his weaker left foot and there looked to be no danger, but the Brazilian’s weak shot went straight through Caballero and into the bottom corner to the shock of everyone in the stadium. The shot should have been easily saved and the goal has to go down to a goalkeeping mistake. The champions didn’t care though as they led 1-0 at the interval.
After the break, Pique continued to be a threat from set pieces. Xavi’s free-kick was met with a looping header by the former Manchester United defender, but Caballero did well to tip the ball over the crossbar from ten yards.
Malaga should have pulled level after a fantastic counter-attack, but they were denied by the frame of the goal. Roque Santa Cruz made a tremendous run and was found by a pass just as good, but after the former Blackburn Rovers striker went round Valdes and pulled the ball back, Fabrice could only squeeze a low shot into the post from ten yards. It was desperately unlucky as the winger was off-balance but Malaga should have been level.
There was still one more opportunity waiting for the home side, but Valdes pulled off a fantastic save to seal the win. Jesus Gamez got forward from right back and swung in a cross that was met by Fernandez’s free header, but he aimed it straight at Valdes who made a good reflex save. It was a great opportunity in the dying minutes of the game, but the save proved the class of Valdes.
The win means Barcelona have maximum points out of their first two games, while adding confidence to the team ahead of the second leg of their Spanish Super Cup match with Atletico Madrid in mid-week.
Match Report by Kyle Dixon (@kyledixon95)