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Sep, 3, 2012

Vilanova satisfied with victory

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova was satisfied with Sunday night's narrow 1-0 win over Valencia at the Camp Nou even though the team had not been at their best.

• Barcelona 1-0 Valencia

Adriano Correia's early rocket had put Barca ahead and they dominated the first period, but Valencia improved after the break and only an assistant referee's flag saved the Catalans after Victor Ruiz appeared to have bundled in a late equaliser.

Vilanova told reporters after the game that he was happy with the result, and his team's performance, considering the effort they had put in during Thursday night's Supercopa loss at Real Madrid.

"It is important to finish the game with a clean sheet, although at 1-0 you always have the feeling that they can score," Vilanova said. "We had the game more or less under control, especially in the first half when we had four clear chances. In the second half you noticed the tiredness from the Bernabeu."

The win puts Barcelona alone atop the early La Liga table, with a 100% record from their first three games, and five points ahead of rivals Real.

Vilanova, who watched the game from the stands as he serves a two-game ban for disputing a refereeing decision during last Sunday's 2-1 win at Osasuna, said this was especially promising considering Barca had yet to hit top gear.

"It was very important to begin with these nine points," Vilanova said. "Of course there are things we can improve, we played very well against Real Sociedad, against Madrid here, too. In March or April we will play better. I do not believe any team is at their highest level now."

There was also praise for Alex Song, who made his full debut and played 90 minutes in the deep midfield role usually taken by Sergio Busquets.

"Song played a very good game, as much in defence as in attack," Vilanova said. "For his first game in this stadium, he passed with flying colours."

Barca might have put the game beyond Valencia's reach had they shown more composure in front of goal, with Cesc Fabregas missing a relatively simple opportunity in each half. Vilanova said the decision to substitute the ex-Arsenal man for Andres Iniesta early in the second period did not mean he had been disappointed with his display.

"(Fabregas) played a good game," he said. "He is an 'interior' (inside forward/midfielder) who gets forward a lot and who scores goals. Today he had two clear chances, but in general he played a good game. At 1-0 I preferred to bring on Andres and keep three forwards, and not put him (Fabregas) on the wing."

Valencia coach Mauricio Pellegrino, who won a La Liga trophy in 1998-99 during his one season as a Barcelona player, was not too disappointed when he spoke with the press after the game.

"The result is too hard on us, but football is like that - it's about efficiency," Pellegrino said. "The game was difficult for them and for us as well. They scored in a move from a corner. We had our chances in the second half. It was a pity, but I am happy with our performance. Playing like that we will win a lot of games."

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