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September 2, 2009

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Zlatan opens account in Barca's win

ZLATAN Ibrahimovic scored with an acrobatic header on his Spanish Primera Liga debut to seal Barcelona's 3-0 win over Sporting Gijon as the Catalans opened their title defense in style on Monday.

The Sweden striker dived full length to nod in a deflected Daniel Alves cross in the 82nd minute after teenage striker Bojan Krkic and Mali international Seydou Keita had put the European champion 2-0 ahead at the break at the Nou Camp.

With Argentina forward Lionel Messi on international duty, coach Pep Guardiola started with youngster Pedro Rodriguez on the right wing, Ibrahimovic at center forward and Bojan on the left.

The 19-year-old popped up unmarked to nod in at the back post in the 18th after Keita flicked on Xavi's corner, and Keita doubled the lead just before halftime when he headed home an Alves cross.

The match had been put back due to Barcelona's European Super Cup match against Shakhtar Donetsk in Monaco last Friday, which it won 1-0 with a goal at the end of extra time, and Guardiola had complained many of the players were feeling the strain.

"I can't complain about anything the team did as everyone was making an effort and everyone was running," he told a news conference. "We controlled the match."

Bojan and Brazilian left back Maxwell, who with Ibrahimovic joined from Inter Milan in the close season, were both substituted with injuries in the second half.

Barcelona said on its Website that Bojan had damaged a left leg muscle and would be out of action for 15-20 days while Maxwell's left leg injury needed further assessment.

"It was a difficult match in Monaco with extra time and that could have made things hard for us tonight," Keita, who also headed against a post in the second half, said on Barca TV.

"We just want to take each match as it comes and if we can be as successful as last year so much the better."

On Saturday, World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo converted a penalty to help arch-rival Real Madrid beat Deportivo Coruna 3-2.

Off the field, Barcelona strengthened its defense and Real thinned its out while hanging on to Netherlands midfielder Rafael Van der Vaart as the transfer deadline closed at midnight on Monday.

Barcelona was the biggest mover after completing the 25-million euro (US$35.8 million) transfer of Ukraine defender Dmytro Chygrynskiy from Shakhtar.

Meanwhile, Real right back Miguel Torres joined Getafe on a five-year deal, with the Spanish powerhouse retaining a buyback option on the youth academy player.

Although Real continued to be linked with Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery right up until the deadline, it decided to hang on to Van der Vaart.


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