Skip to main content

Barcelona battle to victory in absence of Lionel Messi

August 25, 2013 -- Updated 2258 GMT (0658 HKT)
Barcelona's match-winner Adriano Correia gets past Malaga's Vitorino Antunes at La Rosaleda Stadium.
Barcelona's match-winner Adriano Correia gets past Malaga's Vitorino Antunes at La Rosaleda Stadium.
  • Sunday's 1-0 win at Malaga keeps Barcelona top of La Liga
  • Defender Adriano scores only goal in absence of Lionel Messi
  • Atletico Madrid also on six points after 5-0 thrashing of Rayo Vallecano
  • Winning starts in Italy for new coaches at Inter, Napoli and Roma

(CNN) -- What a difference a Messi makes. Last weekend "King Leo" inspired Barcelona to a seven-goal victory on the opening day of the Spanish soccer season, but in his absence Sunday the reigning champions battled to beat Malaga 1-0.

With the four-time world player of the year rested after suffering a bruised thigh in the midweek Spanish Super Cup draw with Atletico Madrid, new coach Gerardo Martino stuck to his word and left $75 million signing Neymar on the substitutes' bench.

And without a recognized striker, Barca struggled to make the team's usual dominance of possession pay off -- the winner at Malaga came courtesy of a superb curling shot by defender Adriano from outside the penalty area.

Neymar did get another run, but the 21-year-old Brazil star was unable to repeat his goal against Atletico as he was subjected to a series of rough challenges -- and had a late free-kick well-saved.

Earlier, Xavi's free-kick was deflected against the Malaga crossbar, but Barca ultimately had keeper Victor Valdes to thank -- as well as the woodwork.

Fabrice Olinga scrambled a shot that rebounded to safety off the post, then Sebastian Fernandez headed straight at Valdes when he should have equalized.

The win left Barca top of the table on goal difference from Atletico, despite the Madrid side's 5-0 thrashing of Rayo Vallecano earlier Sunday.

Raul Garcia scored in each half while Diego Costa, Arda Turan and Tiago also netted in a perfect warm-up for Wednesday's trip to the Nou Camp for the second leg of the Super Cup.

Real Madrid can also move onto six points by beating Granada on Monday, ahead of the expected unveiling of Tottenham forward Gareth Bale in what is tipped to be a world-record transfer fee.

Levante recovered from last week's drubbing by Barca, holding Sevilla 0-0, while Real Betis Celta Vigo beat Real Betis 2-1 in Sunday's late match despite having Borja Oubina sent off near the end.

In Italy, Inter Milan beat Genoa 2-0 in Walter Mazzarri's first match in charge, with Japanese defender Yuto Nagatomo and Argentina forward Rodrigo Palacio scoring in the final 20 minutes.

"We must remember that these lads had gone four and a half months without winning at home, and there were lots of defeats in there too," former Napoli coach Mazzarri said, referring to the disastrous form which left Inter ninth in the table last season and well short of European qualification.

"We needed to shake off this fear that we'd concede on the first counter-attack. The players just needed a bit of belief."

Napoli's new coach Rafael Benitez also had a winning start as last season's runners-up beat Bologna 3-0, with two goals from Slovakian playmaker Marek Hamsik and the opener from former Real Madrid forward Jose Maria Callejon.

French coach Rudy Garcia was similarly successful in his first match with Roma, coming away from promoted Livorno with a 2-0 win thanks to second-half goals from Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi.

Lazio, fifth in the previous campaign, bounced back from last weekend's 4-0 Italian Super Cup defeat by Juventus to beat Udinese 2-1.

In France, champions Paris Saint-Germain won for the first time this season, beating Nantes 2-1 following two earlier draws.

Edinson Cavani, an $84 million signing from Napoli, put PSG ahead in the first half before an own-goal by defender Alex, but Ezequiel Lavezzi pounced for a 74th-minute winner after Lucas' shot was blocked on the line.

The result left Laurent Blanc's team four points behind top side Marseille and two behind second-placed Monaco.

In Germany, Eintracht Frankfurt notched a first win this season, 2-0 at Eintracht Braunschweig which left the promoted side bottom of the table without a point.

Stuttgart's 2-1 defeat by Augsburg left the five-time Bundesliga champions also on three losses.

Part of complete coverage on
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Last season Jose Mourinho wrote off the title of hopes of his "little horse" -- but now he has a squad primed to dethrone Manchester City.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1858 GMT (0258 HKT)
Luis Suarez will have to wait until late October to make his competitive Barcelona debut his ban for biting an opponent was partially upheld.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1649 GMT (0049 HKT)
Can Louis van Gaal cut it at Manchester United? Will Bayern conquer all in Germany? Is this PSG's year to win the Champions League?
August 7, 2014 -- Updated 1012 GMT (1812 HKT)
It's been a difficult year for Barcelona on and off the pitch, and the signing of Luis Suarez has only increased the prospect of more controversy.
August 11, 2014 -- Updated 1435 GMT (2235 HKT)
Germany striker Miroslav Klose, who scored a total of 16 goals at four World Cup finals, has announced his retirement from international football.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Cultural y Deportivo Leonesa line up in their tuxedo kit.
When celebrating an important anniversary, it's always good to look your best. At least that's theory for a Spanish football team's preseason tuxedo kit.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
While many top European clubs are targeting the U.S. market, French football is setting its sights on expanding into Asia -- with China playing a key role.
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1229 GMT (2029 HKT)
Major League Soccer has snared another big name from England with former Chelsea star Frank Lampard committing his future to New York City FC.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1656 GMT (0056 HKT)
Europe's top clubs have booked a summer holiday to the U.S. -- but this is business not pleasure as they look to cash in on the World Cup afterglow.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Brazil's new coach Dunga won the World Cup as a player in 1994.
Former World Cup-winning captain Dunga is appointed coach of Brazil's national team for the second time, charged with restoring national pride.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1420 GMT (2220 HKT)
Colombia's World Cup star James Rodriguez continues Real Madrid's long tradition of signing "Galacticos."
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1007 GMT (1807 HKT)
Germany's World Cup-winning captain Philipp Lahm has decided to go out at the top by announcing his retirement from international football.