Gerardo Martino continued his perfect start to life in La Liga as Barcelona produced a professional display to see off Malaga 1-0.
Although Barca failed to scale the same heights of last week’s 7-0 thumping of Levante, the Argentine, who replaced Tito Vilanova in the summer, watched on as his side controlled the game against an unambitious opponent.
But despite seeing plenty of the ball, the Spanish champions struggled to create any clear-cut chances, until Adriano broke the deadlock on the stroke of half time with a fine curling effort from distance.
The second half saw just as few opportunities, with Barca seemingly happy to keep hold of the ball and grind out the result.
Malaga, though, were forced to come forward and nearly found the elusive equaliser, however, Seba Fernandez could only direct a close-range header straight at Victor Valdes in the dying minutes of the game.
The home side showed their intentions right from the off, putting 11 men behind the ball when not in possession and inviting the Catalan club to come forward.
It was Malaga, playing on the counter attack, who had the first chance of the match, however, with Fernando Tissone striking an effort just over the bar from the edge of the area.
Barca soon started to stamp their authority on the game with Xavi spotting the run of Cesc Fabregas with a ball into the box, but the ex-Arsenal man could only direct his header straight at Willy Caballero.
The away side continued to pile on the pressure but had very little success in breaking down the opposition - who, to their credit, were defending very well.
It was Malaga, though, who came closest to opening the scoring when Vitorino Antunes fired a free-kick from distance at goal, forcing Valdes to get down low and tip the ball around the post.
The deadlock was broken, however, just before the half-time whistle when Adriano fired a curler into the bottom corner with a fine strike. Caballero looked to be in a position to make the save, but was unable to get his fingertips to it.
Buoyed by the goal, Barca came out after the break in fighting spirit and were inches away from doubling their lead, only for Pique to head onto the bar from Xavi’s free-kick.
Malaga, in contrast, were showing little to no ambition until Roque Santa Cruz latched onto a through ball and rounded Valdes, before cutting it back to Fabrice Olinga in the middle, who could only hit the post from close range.
With the clock ticking down, Barca were more than happy to keep hold of possession and see out the game. Neymar’s free-kick, which brought a top save out of Caballero, was the closest they came to another goal.
But with just a few minutes left on the clock, Malaga pushed everyone forward in search of the equaliser. Jesus Gamez fired in a cross, picking out the unmarked Fernandez, yet he could only direct his close-range header straight at Valdes.
- Sports & Recreation
- Victor Valdes
- La Liga
- Tito Vilanova