image credit: ESPNsoccernet, Yahoo!Eurosport, EMD, AP, EFE, AFP/Getty, Reuters
(source) Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gerard Pique came off the bench to inspire Barcelona to a fifth straight Primera Division win over a hard-working Malaga side.
Ibrahimovic was left out of the starting line-up after picking up an ankle injury in Tuesday night's 4-1 win at Racing Santander.
But the Sweden striker has been making good progress in his recovery and was called upon after Thierry Henry was forced off through injury just short of the half-hour mark.
And Ibrahimovic was on the scoresheet 10 minutes later to bag his fifth goal in as many league games since joining from Inter Milan in the summer.
But Pique took even less time to make an impact, bagging a second for the Catalans only three minutes after replacing Dmytro Chygrynskiy just short of an hour, before Malaga had Duda sent off late on.
Those two strikes gave Barcelona a fifth win in five Primera Division matches this season, but saw the Catalans drop to second place after fierce rivals Real Madrid thrashed Tenerife 3-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu to go top of the table on goal difference.
Barca coach Pep Guardiola decided to leave Ibrahimovic on the bench and, with Bojan Krkic out injured, Henry moved into the centre of the side's three-pronged attack.
Lionel Messi began on the left as Pedro came in for a rare start on the right.
Barca had won all four of their previous league matches and came into this match on top the table.
But the first chance of the night fell to Malaga.
Nigerian striker Victor Obinna latched onto Duda's pass, but shot into the side netting from close range and the visitors survived.
Malaga began the season with an impressive 3-0 victory over Atletico Madrid at La Rosaleda, but the Andalusians have struggled since then and came into this match on the back of three straight defeats.
With Ibrahimovic out, Henry had the chance to impress.
The former Arsenal striker has not scored this season for Barca and had a seemingly golden chance to shine.
But the Frenchman was forced off though injury after 29 minutes and replaced by Ibrahimovic.
And the Swede was on the scoresheet 10 minutes later, when he latched onto Messi's through-ball and slotted home, albeit from what looked like an offside position.
Barca were stroking the ball in customary fashion, but Malaga were working hard and restricting the Catalans to very few real attempts on goal.
The second goal finally came just short of the hour mark.
Pique, who netted against Atletico earlier this season and in the famous 6-2 victory at the Bernabeu last term, replaced Chygrynskiy and poked past Gustavo Munua to put Barca two up three minutes after stepping off the bench.
Messi missed two good chances to make it three and return the Catalans to the top of the league, but in the end Guardiola's side had to be content with a two-goal victory which preserved their 100% record after five rounds if the championship.
They also finished the game a man up after Duda was dismissed for Malaga.
Pep: "I am heartened by the spirit of the team. That is what gives us victories."
[About Ibra] "I appreciate the effort he made even though he was not fully fit".
"(Malaga) Did very well under pressure. They are a very physical team and orderly very good. We struggled but eventually worked out well."
Xavi: "We are over the circumstances, we overcame adversity. The eleven players work, we are a team, and talent are just imposing."
"It was a very difficult game, they played very aggressive. Too bad about losing important players. Injuries are a pain."
"We want to continue on the current line in the long run we lose a game but a positive dynamic and do not want to leave."
Dani Alves: "The state of the field has hindered the game, we had to play more direct.
"It is good to have Ibrahimovic, has the quality to play here."
"The move of the expulsion of Luque has been very rapid, are things of the game."
"We do not have to worry about Madrid, we have to go to ours, the league is very long."
"We had to work a little harder, but the team has responded and we won a great victory."
"From the referee did not speak, is a rule of costumes. The complaints are losers, we're above that."
"This isn't a two-team league, Sevilla won today and will have to comply to all 20 teams.
(On Weligton) "These are things that remain in the field but we must be careful to do no harm."
Valdés: "It was no easy field, we are very happy."
"We're playing a lot of things, intensity throughout the season will be key, Real does not loose, we have to go game by game."
Messi: "It was a tough match, with many crashes and a difficult pitch.
"I wanted to make. I've been lucky but the important thing is to win, get the three points. "
Zlatan: "It was a tough game, with a very aggressive Malaga.
"I'm not recovered 100% but I'm good to go."
"It was a difficult game to referee: the pressure of the stadium, the players ...".
"I try to score goals and help colleagues. Without them I can not do anything. The goal came from a great pass from Messi. "
Puyol: "They have come out very strong, has cost us, we have worked very hard and we get three points."
"It is a league of two.There are other teams with great quality, confident that we will fail and Madrid as well. "
"This is a difficult field. I like the topics and the truth that must be won in these fields to win the league. "
"I understood very well with Chygrynskiy, has so much quality and every day is adapting better, sorry for his injury."
Touré: "It was a very difficult field. Most importantly, we have added the three points."
"When the referee lost control of the game it becomes more difficult to play."
Piqué: "The field was not very well. It was difficult to have the ball in the first 30 minutes."
"When we scored and we put forward the contrary is coming down and we feel more comfortable."
Thierry Henry noticed pain in the abductor of his left leg during the course of the game and was replaced in the 28th minute for Ibrahimovic.
Chygrynskiy, slipped at the start of the second half and had problems with his left knee. He was then replcaed with Piqué in the 55th minute.
They will both undergo more tests on Sunday to determine the extent of their injuries.
I'm loving this one. Reminds me of a fan photo taken with a film camera. IDK