Barca’s scoring touch deserts them in Malaga

Andy West 25/09/2014
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Going toe-to-toe: Malaga midfielder Samuel Castillejo challenges Lionel Messi.

Barcelona’s early season optimism was dented as they dropped their first points of the campaign in a dull goalless draw at Malaga.

Although Luis Enrique can take the consolation that his team’s run of clean sheets has continued to six matches, it was a tepid attacking performance from the Catalan side who didn’t manage a single effort on target all night.

Lionel Messi and Neymar were disappointing in attack while Bar­ca’s midfield creativity deserted them as Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic simply ran out of ideas.

Malaga had the first opportunity when a speedy counter-attack cre­ated an opening for Nordin Amra­bat – preferred to Roque Santa Cruz in attack – but his effort lacked the power to trouble Claudio Bravo.

The first of few chances for the visitors came after 15 minutes when Messi tried his luck with a long-range free-kick, but it sailed well over the top.

The Argentine came close to the opener in an unconventional man­ner when he met a cross from Jordi Alba with his shoulder but the ball flew wide of Malaga keeper Carlos Kameni’s right-hand post.

With Malaga getting everyone behind the ball, it was a dour con­test containing little goal threat at either end as the action took place almost exclusively in a congested space in the middle of the home team’s half.

Barca full-backs Alba and deb­utant right-back Douglas were unable to provide any attacking width as the hosts maintained their defensive discipline, with the exception of a dangerous low ball from Alba which flew across the face of goal and narrowly eluded Messi.

Malaga were showing next to no attacking intent, and off-colour opening periods from Barca’s front three of Messi, Neymar and Pedro ensured the stalemate stayed in­tact until the interval without ever really looking like being broken.

The second half started in a very different fashion as Malaga went on the offensive, penning Barca back into their own half without creating any goalscoring opportunities.

Struggling to find any fluency, Barca didn’t mount a meaningful second half attack until 12 min­utes into the period, when Alba was again the outlet as he received a smart pass from Sergio Busquets and sent another centre bouncing across the face of goal.

However, the visitors then nearly took the lead on an unlikely route as Marc Bartra, making his first start of the season in defence, rose to meet a corner from Rakitic and headed narrowly wide.

Barca’s struggles were evident from Enrique’s decision to make a double change in attack shortly af­ter the hour mark, introducing San­dro and Munir El Haddadi for the ineffective Neymar and Pedro.

Malaga threatened when Rob­erto Rosales ran onto a cut back from Juanpi and unleashed a fero­cious shot which flew harmlessly well wide of the left upright, and Barca then had a huge let-off when Ignacio Camacho drilled a narrow-angled free-kick to the near post and Bravo clawed it off the goalline.

An off-the-ball spat between Messi and Weligton, which could have seen the Malaga defender sent off, enlivened the latter stages but there were no more chances and the right result ensued. 

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Suarez scores first Barca goals in thrashing of Indonesia U-19s

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Off the mark, sort of: Suarez is still a month away from making his first team debut.

Luis Suarez scored his first two goals for Barcelona in the humble surroundings of the club's training ground as an experimental Barca B side beat an Indonesia under-19 team 6-0 on Wednesday.

The Uruguayan is a month away from being allowed to play in a competitive game as he serves a four-month ban for biting Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup in June, but despite some obvious rustiness he played the full 90 minutes and showed flashes of his brilliance.

Former Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen was also making his first appearance in a Barca shirt after recovering from a hamstring injury and he opened the scoring early on.

Suarez then latched onto a lovely pass from another of the Catalans' summer purchases, 18-year-old Croatian international Alen Halilovic, and fired into the far corner.

David Babunski made it three with a fine strike as Barca toyed with the inexperienced visitors and Bicho slotted home a fourth early in the second-half after replacing Vermaelen.

Suarez showed his quality once more with a fine curling left-footed effort for the fifth before passing up the opportunity of a hat-trick as he stood aside to allow Maxi Rolon to round off the scoring from the penalty spot.

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Torres off the mark for Milan

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El Nino: Fernando Torres (c) is congratulated after his first goal in Milan colours.

Fernando Torres scored his first AC Milan goal but the Serie A giants could do no more than force a 2-2 draw at newly-promoted Empoli.

The on-loan Chelsea striker, who appeared as a substitute in Satur­day’s home defeat to Juventus was trusted from the off in Tuscany, yet it was Empoli’s Lorenzo Tonelli who drew first blood.

The Azzurri took a two-goal lead through Manuel Pucciarelli before Torres opened his account in Rossonero colours with a glanc­ing header shortly before the break.

Keisuke Honda levelled the match with a second-half daisy- cutter but, even though Empoli were reduced to 10 men thanks to Mirko Valdifiori’s red card, Milan could not produce a late winner.

Needless to say big things are expected of World Cup winner Torres at San Siro and so it seemed the Stadio Carlo Castellani might represent a less-pressurised venue for his full debut.

Inside 10 minutes he sent Jeremy Menez through on goal and col­lected a cross from Daniele Bonera in a dangerous position before the Empoli defence cleared.

The Tuscans took a surprise lead in the 13th minute as Tonelli wriggled away from Bonera’s loose marking to power home a header.

From that point forward Empoli ran riot and might have scored twice more before 20 min­utes had passed.

They would score again on 21 minutes, Francesco Tavano slip­ping the ball into the path of Puc­ciarelli, who beat Abbiati with rela­tive ease.

Milan dropped deep to avoid further embarrassment and slowly recovered from their shell-shock.

It fell to Torres to ease the rising pressure and send the visitors in at the break in a brighter mood as he opened his account for Milan.

Ignazio Abate’s cross arrived from the right wing and Torres sprang into the air to connect with the ball and send it home in a high looped arc over Sepe’s head.

Two minutes before the hour, Honda created space for himself on the edge of the box, switched the ball onto his preferred left boot before driving along the grass and into the bottom corner.

The visitors finished strongly but had to settle for a point. 

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