The return of league football to the Camp Nou coincided with the return of Neymar. The Brazilian forward missed the start of the season due to a nasty case of the mumps but having resumed full training last week, he was ready to start against Málaga.
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The selection of Neymar saw the fearsome trio of Neymar, Luis Suárez and Lionel Messi return for the first time since the Champions League final. The front three started the game well, Suárez was looking lively and it wasn't long before the Uruguayan had the ball in the net.
A corner from Ivan Rakitić in the fourth minute found Suárez and the striker drilled the ball into the net. But before Suárez had even taken the first step towards celebrating, the referee had ruled it out. Replays showed that Suárez used a well timed shove to get so much space in the box and the goal was correctly disallowed. Nevertheless, Barca's No.9 was looking up for it and getting himself in the right positions but he failed to convert any of his efforts.
The first half was littered with chances but all of them half chances. Both sides were getting glimpses of goal but neither could carve out a golden goalscoring opportunity and after the pace of the first 15 minutes, the tempo diminuendoed. The only player who seemed wanting to increase the speed of the game was Barça club captain, Andrés Iniesta.
Iniesta was producing more of his trademark magic. Using his great ball control to work space in and around the Málaga penalty area as well as picking out adept passes to switch the play. A particular highlight came when Iniesta slid the ball through the smallest of gaps and into the path of Messi but the Argentine, uncharacteristically, squandered the chance.
Going into the game, Málaga had denied Barcelona a goal in the last two meetings between the clubs and it was easy to see why as the game developed. Los Boquerones kept a compact unit, restricting Barcelona space and denying any chances to get in behind them, even with the pace of Messi and Neymar.
The first half was ended in slight controversy as Barcelona had two good penalty shouts waved away. The first came when Neymar worked space for himself in the penalty area. The Brazilian tricked his was past defenders and as he got to the byline, he cut back on himself, fooling the sliding Miguel Torres. As Neymar looked to centre the ball, it struck the arm of Torres and the cry of "penalty!" erupted from the crowd and Neymar. While it's true that the ball was hit at him from close range, Torres' arm was trailing behind him and you could argue he had the time to move it out the way should he have chosen to.
Barcelona's next appeal looked even more convincing. A long ball was controlled by Suárez who bore down on goal. As he came close to getting his shot away, Marcos Angeleri slid in and clipped the heel of Suárez. The defender didn't make any contact with the ball and Barça were again denied a spot kick.
The half time whistle came and the sides went in goalless.
In the same vein as the first, the second half started with a good intensity from Barça. Seven minutes after the restart and Neymar was attacking from his favoured left side. He tricked his way into the box but his square to Messi seemed to take the Argentine by surprise and the resultant shot was a tame one.
As the half wore on, Barça were looking more and more likely to break the deadlock. Messi came close just before the hour mark as he gave the eyes one way and shot the other. However, Carlos Kameni read it well and saved.
Kameni was meeting Barça blow for blow and was denying anything thrown at him. All of the front trident had good efforts but were all dealt with by the athletic keeper. Luis Enrique was looking inquisitive on the touchline and he plumped for a midfield switch of Rakitić for Rafinha. Not long after that and Barça came closest to getting the ball in the net, but it wasn't from the foot of one of their own. Iniesta found the charging Sergi Roberto whose cross was deflected over in the kind of clearance that 9/10 times would end up in the back of the net.
Barcelona were probing, looking for that opening goal that would send them on their way to the three points and it finally came from an unlikely source. Luis Suárez crossed the ball and it caught Kameni out, the ball eventually landed at the feet of Thomas Vermaelen. The invisible man of last season, hit the ball sweetly, keeping his head over it to ensure it didn't ballon over the bar. Kaman was unable to get close to it and Barça had broken the deadlock.
A few more chances fell Barça's way, including a good attempt from Lionel Messi, but they were again met by Kameni who, despite the goal, put in an excellent performance. The game finished with a slight panic for Barça as a Málaga counterattack required a last minute slide tackle from Jordi Alba to deny the visitors. It came to nothing and the game finished 1-0 as Barça take maximum points from their opening games.
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