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Thomas Vermaelen celebrates his goal / VÍCTOR SALGADO-FCB

FC Barcelona gave a masterclass in sticking to the task and never giving up with a narrow victory over a dogged Málaga side at Camp Nou. Thomas Vermaelen was the hero of the hour, the Belgian’s first ever goal for Barça in the second half enough to maintain the blaugranes’ 100 per cent record at the start of this 2015/16 league season.

Luis Enrique has not had the best of luck with injuries and suspensions so far this season. Against Málaga he was without the services of no less than four defenders – the injured Brazilian trio of Douglas, Adriano and Dani Alves – and the suspended Gerard Piqué. Sergi Roberto started at right back and for the first time this season in official competition, the trio of Neymar, Suárez and Messi combined the starting eleven with the return of the Brazilian after missing both Super Cups due to illness. 

Decisions not going Barça’s way

The attacking trident, scorers of 122 goals last season in official competition, did not take long to make their presence felt. In just the fourth minute Luis Suárez headed home only for the referee to disallow the goal for a push by the Uruguayan on defender Angeleri. It was not the only decision that did not go the blaugranes’ way in the first half. The Málaga centre back was fortunate to not give away a penalty when he dived in on Suárez with four minutes to go until the break.

Previously, Mascherano had come within a whisker of scoring his first ever goal for the Club, his header skimming off the crossbar with the Málaga defence nowhere to be seen. Javi Gracia’s side tried to soak up the pressure and try their luck on the counter – Juankar came close to scoring from inside his own half with Bravo stranded, the Málaga midfielder striking a loose ball in midfield first time with an impressive technique.  The visitors lost captain Weligton to injury in the first half and were relieved and a little fortunate to still be on level terms at half time.

Hero Vermaelen

In the second half Barça’s persistence threatened to be rewarded – Neymar, looking sharp after recovering from illness, unselfishly set up Messi not long after the restart but the Argentine was denied by a good save from Málaga keeper Kameni. Time and time again, Luis Enrique’s side found a way through, only to be denied by the former Espanyol man. Messi was frustrated by the Cameroonian on mutiple occasions before the opening goal finally arrived from an unlikely source.  Kameni made his first mistake of the evening, pawing the ball into the path of Thomas Vermaelen and the Belgian drilled the ball home for his first goal in a Barça shirt.

The goal could not have come at a more propitious moment. There were more chances for the home side but a lack of decisiveness in front of goal and that man Kameni combined to make the final few minutes nervy ones for Barça fans. Málaga could have stolen a point right at the death but Charles failed to connect with Juankar’s cross to allow Barça to make it two wins out of two so far this season in the league.

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