Barcelona start campaign in style
Barcelona began their quest for a second successive league title under Pep Guardiola with a routine win over Sporting Gijon in the first round of Primera Liga action at the Nou Camp.
First-half goals from Bojan Krkic and Seydou Keita set an under-strength Catalan side on their way and summer signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic grabbed his first for the club late on as Guardiola's side strolled to a comfortable victory. Pedro was rewarded for his winning goal in the UEFA Super Cup win over Shakhtar Donetsk last week with a place in the starting XI, replacing Lionel Messi who is on international duty with in Argentina.
Keita, Bojan and Maxwell all started in a new-look Barcelona side, as Thierry Henry and Yaya Toure were left on the bench and Rafa Marquez and Andres Iniesta - on their way back from injury - watched on from the stands, along with new signing Dmitro Chygrynsky.
Barca dominated from the outset and Ibrahimovic showed some neat touches early on. The first real chance of note fell to the former Inter Milan forward, but he dragged a poor effort across the box from a good position after just four minutes.
Sporting came into this game with five players missing through injury and coach Manuel Preciado opted to field all five summer signings from the start. The northerners began well and Diego Castro should have given them the lead after 10 minutes when he poked his shot harmlessly over the bar with only Victor Valdes to beat.
Seven minutes later, Barca were ahead. Keita cleverly flicked on Xavi's corner with his head and Bojan was on hand to apply the finishing touch with a diving header at the back post. Maxwell's suicidal back pass almost set up David Barral for an equaliser after 32 minutes, but Valdes was alert to the danger.
Ibrahimovic then cut the ball back in the area brilliantly after 40 minutes, but his weak shot was easily saved by Sporting keeper Juan Pablo Colinas at the near post.
Two minutes later, Bojan went on a mesmerising run and was allowed to shoot by a Sporting defence expecting the killer pass to a team-mate. His effort was eventually deflected wide and from the resulting corner, Barcelona went two up.
This time it was taken short to Dani Alves, who whipped in a pinpoint cross towards the far post where three Barca players were queuing up to apply the finish. The first in line was Keita, who crashed an unstoppable header past Juan Pablo to give Barca a two-goal lead at the break.
Bojan almost put the Catalans three up not long after the break, but Sporting kept fighting and came close through Mate Bilic and Barral midway through the second period. Bojan then had another chance straight after that and Ibrahimovic saw a header saved by Juan Pablo with 15 minutes left.
It was proving something of a frustrating evening for the Swede, but he finally got his reward eight minutes from time when he was left all alone to finish with ease at the back post after Sporting had once again failed to deal with a Barca corner. The Barca striker looked to be in an offside position, but he will hardly care now that he is off the mark for his new club.
Further chances came and went in the closing minutes, but this was still an impressive win for a Barca side with several players in reserve and paying well within themselves. After one round of fixtures, the Catalans sit joint top alongside Getafe and Malaga, who both won by three-goal margins yesterday.