Barcelona off the mark in La Liga title defence after win over Cadiz in new home

Defending champions twice struck late to claim a 2-0 victory at the Olympic Stadium

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder #08 Pedri celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the Spanish Liga football match between FC Barcelona and Cadiz CF at the Lluis Companys Olimpic Stadium in Barcelona on August 20, 2023.  (Photo by LLUIS GENE  /  AFP)
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Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez said he was satisfied with a "totally deserved victory" after the defending champions earned their first La Liga win of the season by defeating Cadiz 2-0 on Sunday.

In their first competitive game at their temporary new home at the Olympic Stadium, while the Camp Nou undergoes upgrades and renovations for the the next year-and-a-half, Barca twice struck late through Pedri and Ferran Torres to claim all three points.

After Getafe held Barcelona to a frustrating goalless draw on the opening weekend, Cadiz almost managed the same feat until Ilkay Gundogan cleverly released Pedri to score.

Substitute Torres drove through the middle and tucked home in stoppage time to put gloss on what was another unconvincing performance.

"I'm happy, quite satisfied with the team's work and their positional play too, I think it's a totally deserved victory," said Barca manager Xavi.

The Catalan coach, banned from the dugout after being sent off against Getafe, selected 16-year-old Lamine Yamal on the right in place of the suspended Raphinha, also dismissed last weekend as tempers frayed.

Yamal, on his first start for the club, came closest for Barca in the first half with an angled strike expertly tipped to safety by Jeremias Ledesma.

The teenage forward thrilled nearly 40,000 fans – there were around 10,000 empty seats with a low uptake on season tickets because of the temporary move from Camp Nou.

"I think it's very positive for the club and the fans, that 40,000 people came, supporting the team," said Xavi, despite the relatively quiet atmosphere.

At the other end, Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen went one better with a superb save to deny Roger Marti one-on-one, after Alejandro Balde gave the ball away on the halfway line.

New signing Oriol Romeu had a goalbound effort blocked after a scramble in the box early in the second half as Barcelona struggled to break down their Andalucian visitors.

Ruben Alcaraz almost gave the Yellow Submarine the lead but lashed a shot wide, while Chris Ramos also came close with a rasping effort.

Barca midfielder Gavi nodded against the bar at the other end, before Xavi threw on Moroccan winger Ez Abde in his stead.

Barcelona v Cadiz - match gallery

Barcelona then switched to a three-defender system, also bringing on Ansu Fati for Balde as the hosts sought the breakthrough. They tossed crosses into the area, looking for Robert Lewandowski, but the Polish forward failed to make a nuisance of himself.

"He will score, he needs to have more patience," said Xavi, concerned at Lewandowski drifting from his position to get involved in the play.

"He wants to come, I understand it. You can't lose your positioning. I think he was good in the second half working for the team, and he set up the goal for Ferran."

Abde drew a fine save from Ledesma with a vicious curling effort as Barcelona regrouped following a cooling break in the hazy evening heat.

Eventually they found the breakthrough when former Manchester City midfielder Gundogan dinked a fine ball through for Pedri to slide past Ledesma with eight minutes remaining.

The Canary Islander held up a shirt in tribute to Tenerife, currently ravaged by wildfires.

"It was tricky, yes, we should have scored much earlier," Xavi told Movistar, adding praise for Gundogan for his impact in the final third. "That's why we signed Gundogan, he makes the difference with the final ball."

Cadiz almost levelled through Darwin Machis but he hammered a strike over the bar from close range.

Torres secured the victory for Barcelona after he ran on to Lewandowski's header, through the middle of Cadiz's crumbling defence and slotted home.

Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid could not follow up their opening weekend win with another at Real Betis.

Isco impressed again in midfield for the hosts, who had more shots but failed to get any on target.

Mario Hermoso forced a save from Rui Silva but neither team created much danger in a disappointing stalemate.

Updated: August 21, 2023, 5:20 AM