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
The U.S. government recognizes Kosovo, as do most European states, but getting football's ruling bodies to play ball has proved harder.
June 4, 2014 -- Updated 1504 GMT (2304 HKT)
National heroes don't always belong to one country. Ask France's World Cup hero Patrick Vieira, who is rediscovering his roots.
CNN's John Sinnott on the quiet Cambridge graduate behind Liverpool's resurgent campaign.
May 30, 2014 -- Updated 1519 GMT (2319 HKT)
They are the dispossessed -- stateless, and unrecognized by football's ruling body. But these teams will still play at their own World Cup.
Louis van Gaal will be a perfect fit for Manchester United the club, business and brand, says CNN's Patrick Snell.
May 19, 2014 -- Updated 1924 GMT (0324 HKT)
There's a new force in Spanish football -- and Atletico Madrid's ascendance is sharply contrasted by the fall from power of Barcelona.
May 13, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Rubber bullets, drones and FBI-trained riot police. Welcome to Brazil's 2014 World Cup -- will protests overshadow football's showpiece event?
May 9, 2014 -- Updated 1318 GMT (2118 HKT)
The former England international, who famously kicked a banana off the pitch 27 years ago, says education is the key to tackling racism.
May 7, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Of course not. But former Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed seems to think the removal of Michael Jackson's statue was a very "bad" idea.
May 7, 2014 -- Updated 1603 GMT (0003 HKT)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 01: Neymar of Barcelona celebrates his goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match between FC Barcelona and Club Atletico de Madrid at Camp Nou on April 1, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
The Brazilian star's first season in Spain may have spluttered along, but the 22-year-old says he'll be firing on all cylinders at the World Cup.
April 30, 2014 -- Updated 1715 GMT (0115 HKT)
Former Soviet footballer Sergei Baltacha traveled from the land of the hammer and sickle to join The Tractor Boys and in doing so broke new ground.
April 29, 2014 -- Updated 0931 GMT (1731 HKT)
Brazil's Dani Alves arrived at Barcelona from Sevilla in 2008 and he has gone on to make over 180 appearances for the club.
Villarreal football supporter who threw a banana at Barcelona's Dani Alves during league match handed a life ban by the La Liga club.