La Liga leaders Barcelona beat bottom side Malaga 2-0 at the Camp Nou on Saturday, preserving their four-point lead at the top of the table.
Gerard Deulofeu got Barca on their way inside two minutes with his first goal for the club, but it was an opener laced with controversy. That's because the ball clearly went out of play prior to the winger neatly tucking away Lucas Digne’s cross.
The home side failed to add to their tally before the interval, with Malaga performing to a level far exceeding their league position. But Andres Iniesta made the game safe with a second after the restart.
Given Malaga’s poor form an early goal for Barca was no surprise. It was a strike of massive contention, though.
After two minutes Digne dug out a cross on the left flank that was turned in by Deulofeu. As Barcelona celebrated, the Malaga players were furious with the referee; this image from Lucas Navarette showed why:
Lucas Navarrete @LucasNavarreteM
Meanwhile, journalist Jason Pettigrove commented on the fortune the Blaugrana have been getting early in the 2017-18 campaign:
Jason Pettigrove @jasonpettigrove
5 own goals and one from a cross that was already out of play. #Barça getting all of the luck this season. #LaLiga2017-10-21 18:55:41
After falling behind, Malaga did well to establish themselves in the contest and looked lively up top through Diego Rolan. Barcelona, meanwhile, were finding clear-cut chances tough to conjure.
Before half-time the best chances actually fell to the bottom club. Chory Castro was on the end of both of them, though he skewed a header wide and then failed to turn a cross towards goal from close range.
Aside from a few flurries from Lionel Messi, the Barca attack was looking a little dull as the referee called time on the first period. The home side had managed just one shot on target in the opening 45 minutes.
As noted by journalist Rafael Hernandez, in an uneventful half the error that led to Deulofeu’s goal was the major talking point:
Rafael Hernández @RafaelH117
Poor and boring half by Barca, marked with disgraceful mistake by the ref.2017-10-21 19:35:00
In the second half, there was more pop to Barca’s passing, as they found Messi in dangerous positions. Unsurprisingly he was involved in the Blaugrana’s second.
Messi killed a sharp pass from Javier Mascherano, turned and played in Iniesta at the end of a driving run. The veteran midfielder’s shot flicked off Roberto Rosales and into the top corner. Per Rik Sharma, the legendary playmaker doesn’t tend to get on the scoresheet too often:
Rik Sharma @riksharma_
... last time he scored in La Liga was 2 years ago - in the 4-0 win over Madrid at the Bernabeu2017-10-21 20:02:41
While it had been nothing like a vintage Barcelona display, they were now in complete control of what had been an otherwise even game.
With the shackles off, some more openings did come for the hosts. And after a wonderful surge from Sergi Roberto, Luis Suarez should have tapped home from six yards. Somehow, the former Liverpool man scuffed his shot wide.
It was a howler from the Barca No. 9; as noted by Agence France-Presse’s Kieran Canning, Suarez, who was replaced and unhappy shortly after the miss, has been in rotten form:
Kieran Canning @KieranCanning
Remember when Luis Suarez was good at football? It was a simpler time2017-10-21 20:17:53
The tempo of the game slowed in the latter stages, with Barcelona content to keep possession and Malaga's players evidently growing weary before the final whistle.
Barca manager Ernesto Valverde may be concerned with certain aspects of the team's display in this one, especially the ongoing issue of Suarez's form. But with eight wins and one draw from their first nine La Liga games, the new boss will be delighted with the team's start to 2017-18 overall.