Brilliant Barcelona begin with a win
Barcelona 3 – 0 Sporting Gijon
An under-strength Barcelona side began the defence of their La Liga crown with a captivating display of possession football in a 3-0 home win against Sporting Gijon.
Barca were without star names such as Messi (international duty), Henry (slight groin strain) and Iniesta (thigh injury), but started brightly as Sporting sat back and defended deep from the start.
Big-money summer acquisition, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was on the pitch and was put through in the box after just four minutes of play. But he failed to hit the target after scuffing his shot across the six yard box.
The first ten minutes were played in Sporting’s half until the away side almost poached a shock goal.
Diego Castro found a gap in the Barca defence and slid in to strike the ball just over under pressure from Maxwell’s last-ditch tackle.
But Barcelona did not waste their opportunity to open the scoring with 17 minutes on the clock.
A corner taken by Xavi was flicked on by the imposing Keita towards Bojan, who was loitering at the far post, to head in a yard from goal.
Barca deserved their lead, as did the dominative goalscorer – picked out during The Sport Review’s World Cup potential guide – who was full of running and clever ideas.
In the 25th minute, Sporting striker Barral continued a week of simulation controversy by receiving a booking for an obvious attempt to deceive the referee.
The next chance fell to Barca home debutant, Ibrahimovic, who tried to beat Pablo in the Sporting goal with a cheeky chip into the near post.
After a slight lull in the game, the Catalan club doubled their lead on 42 minutes.
The impressive Bojan made a marauding run into the box and hit a low drive that was deflected for another corner to the home side.
The corner was played short to Dani Alves. His out-swinging cross was met by the head of Keita who – to the joy of 98,000 supporters in the Camp Nou – powered the ball into the back of the net.
The goal demoralised Sporting as they went in for the half-time break.
Bojan, just 19 years of age, commenced the action in the second half by skipping past Sastre in the opposing area and hitting the side netting from an acute angle.
Barcelona enjoyed an overwhelming 72 per cent of possession, but Sporting were the side to create the next chance after springing the offside trap and forcing Victor Valdes to tip the ball around the post.
Ibrahimovic seemed to be experiencing a luckless debut as he miss-hit another shot from the edge of the box spinning into the air.
Another corner for Barcelona almost created a third goal as Keita – who was proving dominant in the air – again won a header, only to nod the ball over the crossbar.
Bojan had another shooting opportunity after engineering space for himself, but blazed his strike over from a tough angle in the six yard box.
His game, unfortunately for both the player and the crowd, came to a premature end as he appeared to strain his knee on 80 minutes.
Barca’s third goal came shortly after his disappointing exit and again it was from a corner.
It was Dani Alves – who was deadly with his delivery all night – that whipped the ball in from a short corner for Ibrahimovic to finally bag the debut goal he was desperate for by heading in at the far post in a similar fashion to Barca’s opener.
Pedro almost made it four as he flicked the ball just over the bar seconds later.
In contrast to Real Madrid’s disjointed and shapeless performance against Deportivo, Barcelona were an absolute pleasure to watch.
Round one: Barcelona 1 -0 Real Madrid.
Man of the Match: Saydou Keita – Flicked the ball on at the near post for Barca’s opener, scored the second and didn’t stop running all night.