Barcelona 3-0 Sporting Gijon: Ibra Nets In Routine Win To Start Blaugrana Title Defence

The reigning champions got off to a winning start at home to the Asturians...

Barcelona top the Liga table after a none-too-strenuous win over Sporting Gijon in the opening match of their new Primera season.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his debut for the Catalan outfit and netted late on, Bojan Krkic and Seydou Keita also doing the scoring honours in a match that the hosts dominated and in which the visitors showed their severe defensive frailties.

Barcelona started this season as they finished the last one - playing confident, possession football in midfield.

However, the occasional communication breakdown gave Sporting half-chances, largely through the good work from Miguel de las Cuevas that allowed Diego Castro a poor miss.

But with Barca looking the more accomplished side, there was no surprise when they took the lead on the quarter-hour mark. Xavi flighted in a near-post corner which Keita flicked on goalwards to the far post. It was heading just wide, but Bojan, totally unmarked, dove in to convert for the opener.

To their credit, Sporting attempted counters down the flank, but for the most part Barca were appearing comfortable, with Xavi putting Ibra through on 30 minutes for a chance that he might on another day have converted.

Heading into the break the Blaugrana upped the pressure, and it was 2-0 soon afterwards. Sporting's inability to clear whipped crosses cost them as Dani Alves swung one in from deep, and with Gregory and Botia unable to rise to the occasion, Keita slammed home a powerful header.

After the interval, Pedro - high on confidence after his Friday night exploits in Monaco against Shakhtar - almost set up Bojan for a third, but Barca spirits were dampened soon afterwards as Maxwell picked up an injury and came off for Eric Abidal.

Barcelona were in their element as Sergi Busquets and Pedro won several corners, but again, Pep Guardiola could only look on grim-faced as Bojan withdrew to be replaced by Jeffren Suarez after a knock.

Still, there was one more moment of joy. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was to score on an otherwise unassuming debut, and he did so - just like Keita and Bojan - with his head. Wide open at the far post, he swiftly judged the flight of Alves' deflected cross and nodded home.

Pedro could have made it four right afterwards, but it ended 3-0 to the hosts as they go joint top.

Steve Michaels,