Adriano scored the only goal as a Barcelona side without the injured Lionel Messi laboured to a 1-0 victory over Malaga. The Brazilian struck the decisive blow a minute before half-time with a left-footed effort that Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero will have been disappointed to see slip through his grasp.
However, Malaga were left to rue two huge chances after the break as firstly Fabrice struck the post and then Sebastian Fernandez headed straight at Victor Valdes when completely unmarked inside the area in the closing stages.
Despite Messi’s absence, Barça boss Gerardo Martino once again started with Neymar on the bench as Fabregas started, whilst Alex Song and Adriano replaced Sergio Busquets and Dani Alves from the side that started Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid in the first-leg of the Spanish Super Cup.
Without either of their South American attacking stars, Barça failed to break down a solid but limited Malaga side. Andres Iniesta then fired an effort from the edge of the area straight down Caballero’s throat, but the Argentine was forced into a stunning save nine minutes before the break as he blocked Alexis Sanchez’s header from point-blank range.
However, Caballero was slightly at fault when Barça did eventually take the lead as Adriano cut inside onto his left foot and his curling effort flew over the Malaga keeper’s outstretched arm on its way into the far corner. Gerard Pique nearly added a fortunate second after the break as Xavi’s free-kick rebounded off the defender’s back and looped off the crossbar before Martino finally introduced Neymar just after the hour mark.
Malaga then passed up a huge opportunity to level with their first clear opening of the match as Roque Santa Cruz rounded Valdes and from a tight angle cut the ball back for Fabrice, but the young Cameroonian could only pull his effort off the base of the post.
Neymar nearly made it two goals in as many games with a well-struck free-kick that Caballero did well to parry to safety. And Malaga passed up another great chance in the final minute as Jesus Gamez’s cross found Fernandez completely unmarked, only for the Uruguayan to head straight at Valdes, while the Barça keeper comfortably held Fernando Tissone’s follow-up.
Barça’s win took them to the top the table by a single goal ahead of Atletico Madrid after Diego Simeone’s men continued their 100 percent record in the league with a 5-0 mauling of Rayo Vallecano at the Vicente Calderon.