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(source) Pedro's first-half strike gave Barcelona a win over Almeria at the Nou Camp tonight as the Catalans made hard work of a seemingly routine home match in the sixth round of the Primera Division.
The Tenerife-born youngster struck after half an hour to score only his second ever goal for the first team, and it proved enough to give a below-par Barca outfit their sixth successive league win and put pressure on bitter rivals Real Madrid, who face a tough trip to Sevilla tomorrow.
Almeria coach and Real Madrid legend Hugo Sanchez had no doubt been hoping to do his old club a favour by halting Barca.
And Sanchez, who has always maintained he would never coach the Catalans out of respect for the club where he starred in the late 1980s, claimed he would draw inspiration from Barca's other rivals, Espanyol, who scored a surprise 2-1 win at the Nou Camp last season.
But Barca had a man sent off at a crucial moment in that match and as other teams, including Madrid, have found out in the last year, getting anything from the Nou Camp is easier said than done.
That is especially the case when Lionel Messi is on his game and the Argentina winger came close to giving Barca the lead after 10 minutes, when he turned and flashed a shot just wide from eight yards out.
Messi then saw a tame effort saved by Diego Alves as Barca continued to dominate, but Almeria almost took a shock lead two minutes later when Albert Crusat charged down the right flank and sent a dangerous ball across the face of goal, only for Sergio Busquets to clear.
The Andalusians were showing they were not just here to make up the numbers, but they had their goalkeeper to thank for remaining on level terms a minute later, when Alves touched Xavi's shot onto the post after great work from Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
But Alves could do nothing to prevent Pedro from giving Barca the lead after half an hour.
The youngster received the ball with his back to goal, but turned and flashed a thunderous effort into the top corner to give Alves no chance and hand Barca the breakthrough they had been searching for.
Pedro's first Barca goal handed the Catalans victory in the European Supercup in August following a goalless 90 minutes against Shakhtar Donetsk.
And this goal could prove to be just as important.
In truth, it should have been easy after that, but Barca continued to struggle against an organised Almeria outfit, and the visitors produced a moment of tension in the Nou Camp five minutes after the break when Maxwell's last-ditch tackle denied them what looked a certain equaliser.
Xavi, Messi and Rafa Marquez all tried their luck after that for the locals, but the second goal remained elusive.
Ibrahimovic almost scored it with 15 minutes left, but the striker's low shot was pushed past the post by Alves.
The Sweden striker had scored in all five of Barca's previous league matches, but endured a largely frustrating evening in this match.
And Barca were hanging on somewhat at the end, although they did just enough to secure the points.
The Catalans move top provisionally ahead of Madrid's match and will be glad to have won all three points on one of their more forgettable nights.
Almeria, meanwhile, are down in 12th and will be disappointed at having nothing to show for a brave performance.
The Andalusians could drop further tomorrow, depending on other results.
Pep: "It's clear that with the tight marking they employed it was difficult to create."
[about the possibility of other reams copying Almeria's tactisc] "It doesn't bother me at all. We can find solutions and I think I know what they are. Tonight all that was missing was some more inside passing. Man to man marking doesn't bother me because that means we can create space where we want to."
[about Pedro] "He's a player who can score and he's a great help to the team. He moved well on the pitch and scored a great goal. He 's gradually getting more minutes and he needs to keep growing as a player. He's young and can get even better."
[about Iniesta] "He told me he was feeling very good and he managed the whole game. It's good news for us and I'm very happy about it."
Xavi: "I've never been marked like that before, it was crazy, almost obsessive. He followed me everywhere even when I didn't have the ball or went to take a corner, he was there all the time. It drives you crazy being man marked like that."
"Pep told me to go out wide to open more spce in the middle for Busi and Messi. I virtually disappeared from the game, it was pretty boring for me, but I guess we have to get used to it. It's a pity when a team comes just to close down at the back."
Iniesta: "I feel sorry for Ortiz because he came to play and practically did nothing at all but follow me around. They put two players on me and Xavi, but we have other options."
"It was a strange game. We were not good in front ogf goal and perhaps if we'd managed another that would have changed things."
"I felt good. I didn't know if I was going to play the whole 90 minutes, but I'm happy to have been able to."
"We've won six out of six and that's important."
Pedro: "Almeria made it tough for us, but I'm happy about the goal and the win, though I think I wasn't too good with my passing. I was a bit careless, but when you play more your confidence grows. I always try and bring something to the team."
Valdés: "The other team are playing as well, it's not all down to us. Almeria played an intelligent game, marking our midfield and looking to hit us on the break. I don't think we were tired – on the whole we played well in a very hard game. The changes freshened things up a bit. I'm very pleased for and proud of Pedro who is a guy I really like a lot. He's very self effacing and he deserves this type of reward."
Busquets: "I wouldn't say it wa steh hardest game, but it was a bit strange. We took the points as best we could and I think we were the better team. It was difficult because we are not used to facing tactics like Almeria used. My ex-teammate Chico did a great job and I wish him all the best. We are on a good run and it's good to get a win just before the break, even without playing at our best. Let's hope Madrid don't win and we will be on our own at the top."
Alves: "We quickly saw that this was gpoing to be a tough game as they tried to stop our passing game, but we won and we continue our great run"
"I'm a football fan, so I'll be watching Seville and Madrid. It'll be a hard game for Madrid."
"Like all Brazilians, I'm very happy about Rio being chosen as the venue for the Olympics."
Zlatan: "I'm very happy to win a tough game and make it six out of six. We founfd ourselves up against some very difficult tactics, but we won without really playing well. It's very hard to play against 5 defenders and although I didn't score, somebody else did to give us the win Pedro¡s goal was a really good one."
"We have a decisive game against Denmark and if we can win we will be top of a difficult group."
In no particular order.