Pedro piledriver preserves perfect Barca start

MADRID - A stunning Pedro strike gave champions Barcelona a 1-0 home win over Almeria on Saturday to maintain their 100 percent start to the season and put them top of La Liga.

The 22-year-old forward brought coach Pep Guardiola and the Nou Camp faithful to their feet when he collected Maxwell's pass just after the half hour and smashed a shot on the turn into the top right corner.

Barca have 18 points from six matches, matching their best start to a league campaign, and are three ahead of arch rivals Real Madrid who will be without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo at third-placed Sevilla on Sunday.

The Portugal forward sprained his right ankle in Wednesday's 3-0 Champions League win over Olympique Marseille.

Guardiola included Pedro in his team in place of the injured Thierry Henry and the home side dominated the early stages at the Nou Camp with their trademark slick passing.

Almeria goalkeeper Diego Alves did well to deflect a Xavi volley on to the post in the 18th minute after good work from Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic on his 28th birthday and Pedro's follow-up bounced off the same upright.

Barca were unable to exert the same dominance in the second period, with a hard-working Almeria side chasing every ball, but although the visitors managed to string together several good moves they did not come close to finding an equaliser.



"They had three clear chances and we had none so the result was fair," Almeria coach Hugo Sanchez told a news conference.

Guardiola, who played against Sanchez when the Mexican was at Rayo Vallecano in the early 1990s, said Almeria's close marking of midfielders Xavi and Andres Iniesta had made things hard for Barca.

"These kinds of matches leave you with a very positive feeling," he said. "They show you that you always have to work hard and for that reason I congratulate the team."

Elsewhere on Saturday, Jurado's precise strike from the edge of the area in the second minute and a rare goal from Antonio Lopez gave Atletico Madrid a 2-1 win over visiting Real Zaragoza - the first victory this season for Abel Resino's side.

Atletico's 18-year-old goalkeeper David De Gea made a superb save to keep out Marko Babic's penalty on his league debut after he had brought down Jorge Lopez in the 19th minute but was later beaten from the spot by Ewerthon.

De Gea, who also beat away a powerful Jorge Lopez freekick late on, was given his chance as first-choice Sergio Asenjo is at the Under-20 World Cup and reserve keeper Roberto is sidelined with a torn thigh muscle.

"It was a dream for me to play in the Calderon and I saved the penalty as well," De Gea said in a television interview.

Deportivo La Coruna won 1-0 at promoted Tenerife thanks to a second-half header from defender Diego Colotto and moved up to fourth on 12 points, behind Sevilla on goal difference.