Malaga vs. Barcelona: Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterAugust 25, 2013

Gerardo Martino's Barcelona claimed a hard-fought victory over Malaga on Sunday night, escaping La Rosalada with a 1-0 scoreline.

Els Blaugrana dominated possession for long periods but could only convert once, the goal coming from Adriano's long-range wonderstrike, and los Boquerones posed a threat all game long.

Fabrice Olunga came closest to levelling for the visitors, but he struck the post after wonderful work from Roque Santa Cruz.

Malaga started the game the better side, packing in two banks of four and counterattacking with pace.

This much-changed outfit have suffered due to the loss of several key players over the summer, and the likes of Bartlomiej Pawlowski and Fabrice have been drafted in by Bernd Schuster on an emergency basis.

It was an incredibly defensive stall from the very beginning, predicated on absorbing pressure and breaking upfield swiftly with four or five bodies.

After a rocky opening five minutes, Martino's side tightened up and began to control possession and tempo of the game. The delightful flicks began to appear, and soon after the first clear-cut chance cropped up.

Pedro ran between the right-back and centre-back, picked up Cesc Fabregas's perfect through-ball and attempted to round 'keeper Willy Caballero.

But his touch was poor, and the onrushing shot-stopper was able to gather the ball with ease. With Pedro ruing a golden chance missed, Malaga stormed down the other end and won a free kick, which Victor Valdes got down superbly to save.

Malaga grew into the game, with Sergio Sanchez playing the part of superman in defence, but just before halftime, Barca struck.

The ball was fed out to the right, Alexis Sanchez played it inside to Adriano, and the Brazilian smashed a curling, long-range effort into the bottom corner.

Willy should have done better, but the technique on the strike was something else.

It was Adriano's last action, as at halftime he was taken off with a reported thigh injury, and Dani Alves came on his place at right-back.

Barca continued to pressure, with Willy making two saves early on and Gerard Pique directing Xavi's free kick onto the post with his back.

Neymar was introduced after 60 minutes, but it was Malaga who had the next big chance.

They broke at pace, and Roque Santa Cruz did superbly to surge into the box and round the 'keeper. He fed the ball across goal to Fabrice Olinga, who steadied himself before firing against the base of the post under pressure.

Bernd Schuster made a double substitution soon after to try to force the issue, but Barca continued to dominate the ball and therefore limit the chances created.

Neymar lit up the stadium after taking on two players only to be chopped down on the edge of the box, and Sergio Sanchez was lucky to stay on the pitch after committing the foul.

In the closing minutes, Jesus Gamez's cross should have been converted by substitute Sebastian Fernandez at close range, but Valdes pulled off a stunning point-blank save.

Barca escaped with three points, but many questions will be levelled as a result.


Key Player Grades

Cesc Fabregas: B

Thrust into the forward's role due to Lionel Messi's absence, Cesc Fabregas played relatively well at La Rosalada on Sunday night. His through-ball for Pedro should have been rewarded with an assist, and he played a fairly tidy game throughout. 


Sergio Sanchez: B

He got himself booked for arguing over a free kick and remained lucky to stay on the pitch, but Sanchez was nothing short of superb in his play for the majority of the game. A colossus in defence, he led the line superbly and provided a stubborn resistance to Barca's dominance.


Alexis Sanchez: B-

Pedro was largely ignored on the left, and much of Barca's attacking play came from the right side. Alexis assisted Adriano's strike to win it but offered little in key situations. The fans, legitimately, want more from the Chilean.



Full Player Grades



What's Next?

Malaga face an away trip to Sevilla next weekend, while Barcelona host Atletico Madrid in the second leg of the Supercopa España after drawing 1-1 in the first rendition.