Barcelona won the second straight La Liga game of the season. It was another one-goal win, but unlike the match against Athletic Bilbao, the Blaugrana were much more convincing in the narrow victory against Málaga. It didn't seem like a lucky break, which was maybe the case last Sunday; this time the team was actually unlucky and ran into a brick wall of a goalkeeper and defense.
Coach Luis Enrique acknowledged all the positives shown by his men on Saturday, and showed satisfaction with the level of performance displayed in the early stages of the season.
"We ran into the same difficulties [against them] as last season, but were very good…against this rival you've got to be effective and create chances.
"We said at half-time that we had no doubt that the goal would come.
"They’ve always seemed hungry to me. I always want my team to compete to the maximum and I always hope for the best."
That last point is actually true. Super-creative or not, Barça does play a very hungry style that does compete as much as possible. We see the 'MSN' trio, who could be relieved of some running duties, giving their all to recover balls and move around with possession to try and get opportunities. That spirit takes over the whole team, and the Blaugrana try their hardest even when the brilliance isn't there.
It's still a young season, but some individual performances are worthy of recognition. And Lucho talked about three specific players, including the guy who scored the game-winner for him on Saturday:
On Thomas Vermaelen:
"I’m not surprised by his level of play. He is still not one hundred per cent and has to keep getting minutes. He is a big asset on the set pieces. He has lots of character."
On Sergi Roberto:
"He is a very smart player. I am very happy to give him minutes because he deserves it and I hope it stays that way. He was very good defensively."
"It was hard to do what he did today after so few days training, but he was very good. Any other player would not have played, but he did."
Lucho is right on all three. Neymar did step up to the plate after just a few sessions of training and tried his best for 90 minutes, though he didn't perform at the level we expect, which is completely acceptable because of his personal stage of preparation and fitness. Roberto filled in at right-back again and had a solid performance, especially at the back. And Vermaelen was awesome once again, and if healthy he could become more important than anyone ever expected at Catalonia.