Soccer

Vermaelen's goal enough as Barca survive scare to edge Malaga

BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 29: Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona is brought down by Marcos Angeleri of Malaga CF during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Malaga CF at Camp Nou on August 29, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 29: Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona is brought down by Marcos Angeleri of Malaga CF during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Malaga CF at Camp Nou on August 29, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

BARCELONA, Spain --

Thomas Vermaelen scored his first goal for Barcelona to give the team a second straight hard-fought 1-0 win in the Spanish league Saturday as it edged Malaga at Camp Nou.

The former Arsenal defender volleyed in a cross parried by Malaga goalkeeper Carlos Kameni for the 73rd-minute winner.

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Kameni had denied Lionel Messi on several occasions as he tried to replicate his two clean sheets against Barcelona from last season.

Barcelona, which won 1-0 at Athletic Bilbao in round one, opened up a provisional five-point gap over Real Madrid before it hosts Real Betis later.

Vermalen started in place of the suspended Gerard Pique, and his goal marks quite a turnaround for a player who only appeared in the final league match of last season because of nagging injuries.