Barcelona vs. Malaga: Winners and Losers from La Liga
Barcelona made it two wins from two and two clean sheets from two as they beat Malaga 1-0 at the Camp Nou on Saturday evening, maintaining a perfect start in La Liga.
Thomas Vermaelen broke the deadlock late in the second half after 72 minutes of raw frustration, sweeping home after Carlos Kameni parried a strike back into the danger zone.
"I think we played [a] complete game," Luis Enrique told journalists after the game. "Against a well-organised team in defence, [the] team has to be united and intense."
Here, B/R divides up the winners and losers from the game.
Winner: Thomas Vermaelen
So far, Thomas Vermaelen’s 2015-16 has gone a lot better than his 2014-15 did; he’s actually made first-team appearances, first and foremost, but he’s also been one of Barcelona’s veritable stars.
He bagged his second clean sheet in succession on Saturday, shutting out Malaga, and scored his first Blaugrana goal, netting the winner with a firm strike after 72 minutes.
Barcelona started the campaign with an injury crisis in defence, but Vermaelen stepping up to the plate has made things a lot easier and allowed Luis Enrique to begin to replicate last year’s incredibly sound defensive start.
Loser: Referee Santiago Jaime
Referee Santiago Jaime failed to award what B/R’s Karl Matchett believed to be “two clear penalties” to Barcelona in the first half, landing him firmly in the loser’s column.
The first was a handball by Miguel Torres on a low cross from Neymar, obstructing the trajectory of the ball despite the hand placement being unintentional, and the second was a foul from Marcos Angeleri, scything down Luis Suarez in the box on the run and taking absolutely none of the ball.
It took Barca 72 minutes to make the breakthrough, and for a while it looked as though Malaga—an established bogey side of theirs—would stifle them once again. Fortunately the mistakes didn’t cost them.
Winner: Carlos Kameni
Carlos Kameni put in a brilliant display as Malaga stifled Barcelona for as long as possible, eventually conceding but impressing on the whole with a full array of goalkeeping skills.
He made a number of superb stops as Barca peppered the goal with shots, flinging himself to the left and right in order to frustrate Lionel Messi and Co. He commanded the box superbly too, claiming most crosses and nullifying any danger posed from corners.
Thomas Vermaelen eventually ruined his clean sheet, but that shouldn't take away from a great showing.
Loser: Ivan Rakitic
Ivan Rakitic played pretty well on the opening weekend, standing out in Barcelona’s iffy midfield display and linking play well. The same cannot be said of him on Saturday, though, as his performance took a bit of a dip.
Simply put, he didn’t do enough. As Andres Iniesta tried in earnest to break down a Malaga defensive structure that defended through balls and flanks rather well, Rakitic didn’t force anything, didn’t provide a penalty box threat and didn’t link the lines.
The Croatian is the linchpin of a more direct style Barcelona have migrated to under Luis Enrique, and they tend to rack up the goals when he plays well. He’ll need to do a little better than this in future if Barcelona are to start beating teams with more convincing scorelines.
Winner: Andres Iniesta
Andres Iniesta sparkled during Barcelona’s 1-0 win over Malaga, putting in a wonderfully creative display in the centre of the park.
The 31-year-old drove forward and broke between the lines with regularity, causing Malaga’s deep banks of four extreme issues in tracking and marking. A couple of his passes and interchanges opened the defence up completely, with the pick of the bunch being his second-half slotting in of Sergi Roberto for an excellent low cross.
The Spaniard, who only managed one assist in La Liga last season, continues to prove that statistics, when it comes to him, mean very little.