MADRID: Thomas Vermaelen was the unlikely hero as Barcelona overcame stiff resistance from Malaga to maintain their perfect start to the La Liga season with a 1-0 win at the Camp Nou.
The Belgian defender endured a nightmare debut campaign with the Catalans last season as he was perennially sidelined with injury.
However, the former Arsenal captain succeeded where Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar failed as he fired past the excellent Carlos Kameni 18 minutes from time.
For all his good work, Kameni was partly at fault for the goal as he could only parry Suarez’s cross to Vermaelen.
The hosts held on, though, to record their second consecutive 1-0 win and go top of the table.
“It is a great reward for Vermaelen for the fight he had last year,” said Barca defender Javier Mascherano. “I am happy for him because last year he couldn’t show his best football. The goals from the front three will come. The team generated a lot of chances, but we didn’t have much luck.”
Madrid hand Benitez perfect home bow
Gareth Bale silenced his critics by scoring twice as Rafael Benitez got his first win as Real Madrid coach with a 5-0 thrashing of Real Betis.
Benitez’s men had been held to an embarrassing 0-0 draw by newly promoted Sporting Gijon last weekend, but there was to be no repeat as Bale headed home James Rodriguez’s cross inside two minutes.
Rodriguez then fired an audacious free-kick from a narrow angle into the far corner to double the advantage.
Bale turned provider at the start of the second period for Karim Benzema to head home the third before Rodriguez produced another spectacular effort with an overhead kick.
Bale had the final word with a fierce effort that clipped the post on its way in.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2015.
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