Barça reserves win at Malaga
Barcelona's second string warmed up for next weekend's UEFA Champions League final against Manchester United with a 3-1 win at Malaga this evening.
Sebas Fernandez gave Malaga the lead after 31 minutes, but a Bojan Krkic penalty levelled the scores just before the break. The second half was an even affair but Barça had the edge late on and won all three points thanks to goals from Ibrahim Affelay and Marc Bartra in the last 15 minutes.
With the Spanish title already wrapped up and next weekend's Champions League final now at the forefront of his mind, Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola left seven first-team regulars out of his squad. Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, David Villa and Victor Valdes all sat out of the trip to Andalusia.
Pedro, Dani Alves and Javier Mascherano all came on as late substitutes, but it was very much a reserve line-up from Guardiola. Jose Manuel Pinto was in goal, with youngsters Thiago Alcantara, Sergi Roberto, Bartra, Bojan, Jeffen Suarez and Andreu Fontas all included.
Jeffren forced Malaga keeper Willy Caballero into a decent save after 21 minutes as Barça began to pass the ball around and cause problems for the locals. But Malaga went ahead ten minutes later through Fernandez, who beat Pinto from close range after he was set up by Enzo Maresca.
Pinto then made a crucial intervention to deny Malaga a two-goal lead when he saved from Juanmi, who only had the Barcelona keeper to beat. And moments later, the Catalans won a penalty at the other end as Eliseu Pereira brought down Bojan. The youngster picked himself up and converted the spot-kick, sending Caballero the wrong way.
Both sides enjoyed neat passages of play early in the second half, and Malaga almost took the lead after 58 minutes, when Maresca was just off target with a brilliant header from Jesus Gamez's excellent cross.
The visitors' youngsters grew in confidence after that, though, and Afellay was a constant threat. The Netherlands international has been limited to bit-part appearances in his Barcelona career so far, but he impressed as a starter in this match and scored his first goal for the Catalan club - and a fine one - with 15 minutes left on the clock. The 25-year-old side-stepped his marker on the edge of the box and sent a precise low drive into the bottom corner to give his side the lead.
It was a goal out of nothing and there was more to come for Barça as Bartra made it three when he headed home Alves' corner nine minutes later.
Malaga, missing in-form strikers Julio Baptista and Salomon Rondon through injury, finish the season safely clear of the drop zone with 46 points, while Barcelona will end the campaign at least four points above second-placed Real Madrid.