Guardiola hails Mascherano display
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Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola praised Javier Mascherano after the Argentina midfielder started and finished on the winning side for the first time since joining the Catalan club from Liverpool in the off-season.

Mascherano came on as a late substitute for the injured Xavi as Barcelona beat Valencia 2-1 at the Nou Camp on Saturday night, but the Argentina captain had failed to win any of the games he had started prior to Wednesday night's 2-0 victory at home to FC Copenhagen in the UEFA Champions League.

The 26-year-old made his debut in Barcelona's shock 2-0 Primera Division defeat at home to promoted side Hercules last month, while his other two starts came in the recent draws against Rubin Kazan and Mallorca. But with Xavi deemed unfit to start, Mascherano was handed another opportunity alongside fellow holding midfielder Sergio Busquets and completed the full 90 minutes in the 2-0 win.

And although the victory had more to do with his Argentina team-mate Lionel Messi, who scored both goals on the night, Guardiola was happy with his most recent signing. "I'm very satisfied with him. He played well and he is happy. He is a competitive player with a lot of quality," he said after the match. He deserves his opportunity and he is going to be an important player for us."

Barcelona dominated for the most part, as they usually do at the Nou Camp, but are finding it difficult to convert their chances at the moment and suffered a couple of scares before Messi's late clincher. Nevertheless, Guardiola believes an improvement in front of goal is imminent.

"We just need to put the ball in," he said. "Had we got the second goal (earlier), we would have been much more relaxed. But I'm not worried. We can always play better, but overall I am very happy with the win and delighted with my players."

The victory sees Barcelona move to the top of Group D after three games, with seven points from a possible nine - one more than second-placed Copenhagen.

Meanwhile, Copenhagen coach Stale Solbakken was proud his side was able to stay in touch with Barcelona right up until Messi's late second. "We came up against the best team in the world and we had them right there - my players can be very proud of themselves," the Norwegian said.