European champions Barcelona began the defense of the Spanish Primera Liga title with a 3-0 demolition of Sporting Gijon in the Camp Nou on Monday night.
Barca were missing Lionel Messi, who is on international duty with Argentina, and injured key midfielder Andres Iniesta, but it made little difference against the visitors, who narrowly avoided relegation last season. Mali international midfielder Seydou Keita proved the main influence for the Catalan giants in the first half, setting up Bojan Krkic for the 18th minute opener and scoring the second just before the break with a thumping header. Big summer signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic grabbed his first goal for his new club on his home debut with nine minutes remaining. Ibrahimovic screwed an early shot wide and Sporting wasted a good chance through Angel Castro before Keita rose to flick on a corner, the ball finding the diving Bojan at the far post for a simple conversion. Ibrahimovic had two further half chances to open his Barcelona scoring account before another corner led to their second. Daniel Alves received a short pass before sending over an inviting curling cross for Keita to head home with Gerard Pique and Ibrahimovic waiting behind him at the far post to score. Keita hit the post with a second half header and Swedish international Ibrahimovic headed a Bojan cross straight at visiting keeper Juan Pablo. But he finally made the breakthrough as an Alves cross from the right took a slight deflection and he was on hand to score with a diving header. Barcelona, who won the European Super Cup in Monte Carlo on Friday, had to wait until the late kick off on Monday to get their league campaign underway, meaning the loss of the services of Messi.
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He will be playing for his country against arch-rivals Brazil in a crucial World Cup qualifier on Saturday. It meant a rare starting chance for Pedro Dominquez, who scored the Super Cup winner against Shakhtar Donetsk and Bojan, who kept French star Thierry Henry on the bench. New signing Dmytro Chygrynskiy watched the match from the stands after completing his $35.77 million move from Shakhtar earlier on Monday. Inter Milan boss Jose Mourinho was also an interested spectator as he weighed up Barcelona ahead of their Champions League group stage clashes. Barca’s arch-rivals Real Madrid began their Spanish Primera Liga campaign with a 3-2 win over Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday, with new signing Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a penalty.