Vermaelen unlikely hero as Barca beat Malaga

Madrid, Aug 30 (IANS) Thomas Vermaelen was the unlikely hero as FC Barcelona beat Malaga 1-0 in the Camp Nou Stadium late Saturday.

The central defender struck a sweet volley to break Malaga hearts after it looked as if an excellent performance from Malaga keeper Carlos Kameni was going to see them drop two points, Xinhua news agency reported.

The first 45 minutes saw Barcelona looking slightly sluggish on a humid evening in the Camp Nou Stadium, despite Luis Suarez having a goal ruled out after just four minutes after pushing following a corner kick.

Neymar, back in the side, had a shot defected wide, while a defender also got in the way of a Leo Messi effort in the 15th minute.

However, as Barca looked careless, Juan Carlos nearly took advantage of a poor pass from Sergio Busquets, hitting a loose ball onto the roof of the Barca net from around 60 yards with Claudio Bravo stranded.

Javier Mascherano was inches away from scoring his first goal for Barcelona, but saw his header bounce off the crossbar, while there was controversy to end the half as Barca saw two penalty appeals turned down by referee Jaime Latre.

The first was as the ball hit Miguel Torres’ arm after Messi had cut into the area, while the second saw Suarez go down under a challenge from Anglieri.

The second half saw Malaga keeper Kameni make a hat-trick of excellent saves to deny Messi, going down to his right to stop a low shot, before standing up well on his near-post and then blocking a powerful drive in the 65th minute as Barca pinned Malaga back.

Kameni made an even better save in the 70th minute, diving at full stretch as Messi shot from around 25 yards.

Vermaelen finally broke the deadlock with 18 minutes left when the central defender volleyed home from close to the penalty spot after Kameni could only parry Suarez’s left foot cross into his stride.