Debut goal for Ibrahimovic as Barca win opener
Club record signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a late debut goal as Barcelona began their title defence with a convincing 3-0 home win over Sporting Gijon on Monday.
Birthday boy Bojan Krkic, who turned 19 three days ago, and Seydou Keita had put Barca 2-0 up at the interval before Ibrahimovic, a 69-million-euro capture from Inter Milan, netted his first goal for the club on 82 minutes.
It was a largely disappointing debut from Ibrahimovic, who was upstaged by brilliant teenager Bojan, but the goal will certainly lift some of the immense pressure to prove he is the equal of departed hero Samuel Eto’o.
Last season Barcelona lost 1-0 to Numancia on the opening day of the season but there was no slip-up this time around in a convincing win.
After a marvellous pre-season in which they won the Spanish Super Cup and European Super Cup to make it five trophies in a year, Barcelona went into their first game on a high but missing some big names.
Andres Iniesta failed to recover from injury and Lionel Messi was away on international duty with Argentina so several fringe players were given a chance to stake their claim.
European Super Cup hero Pedro Rodriguez, the latest off the club’s infamous youth production line, started the match in Messi’s right wing slot while Bojan played on the left of central striker Ibrahimovic.
With just five minutes gone the tall Swede had a great chance to score a debut goal but fluffed his lines, scuffing his shot wide of the target.
At the other end Sporting almost took a shock 10th minute lead with Brazilian debutant Maxwell, recruited from Inter Milan, preventing a certain goal with a last-ditch tackle.
It is the type of quality defending Barca will expect from their new €25-million Ukrainian centre-half Dmytro Chygrynskiy who watched on from the stands.
With 17 minutes gone the hosts opened the scoring from a corner with Keita’s header falling to Bojan to convert at the back post.
Bojan, a real menace throughout, showed quick feet to create a chance for himself on 40 minutes but his shot was deflected for a corner.
But Gijon could not hold out and two minutes before the break Dani Alves curled in a brilliant cross for Mali international Keita to head home.
In the opening stages of the second half Barca coach Pep Guardiola was forced to make a change with the injured Maxwell coming off for Eric Abidal.
The reorganising defence were almost caught cold and Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes had to pull off a reflex save to deny Mate Bilic.
Sporting, who had the worst defence in the league last season, were looking vulnerable at every corner and Keita hit the post with a 68th minute header.
Bojan’s evening was ruined in the 80th minute when he had to be subbed off injured and Guardiola will hope that the injuries to him and Maxwell are not serious.
With eight minutes left Ibrahimovic got his debut goal smashing in after a cross from Alves to complete the scoring.
The international break means the Spanish league resumes in a fortnight with Barcelona travelling to Getafe who won their first match 4-1 at Racing Santander.—AFP.