It must be catching. If this clash didn't quite match the rollercoaster ding dong between the two Manchester clubs at Wembley or the fireworks between Real Madrid and Barcelona in the Spanish version, the most prestigious curtain-raiser of all served up a spectacle that, if less frenetic, was no less absorbing.

On a night when Cesc Fábregas marked his arrival in new surroundings with a goal, Barcelona kicked off this European campaign as they finished the last one at Wembley.

Cruel as it is to point out – and if Super Cups count – in two weeks Fábregas has already won as many trophies at Barcelona as he managed in eight years at Arsenal that yielded one FA Cup and one Charity Shield.

A volleyed finish from the former Arsenal captain, following a pinpoint cross from Lionel Messi and an exquisitely cushioned chest down, was celebrated wildly by his team-mates, the flare-toting Barcelona fans, and Pep Guardiola in the technical area.

It capped a performance that started sluggishly and ended in typically complete control. Porto, in contrast, started well but ended in disarray with just nine players on the pitch. Fredy Guarín, who gave away the ball for Barcelona's first goal, capped a miserable night when was sent off for a wild challenge on Javier Mascherano in the final minute.

Barcelona had slowly asserted themselves throughout the first half and, inevitably, it was Messi who broke the deadlock with a typically clinical finish.

Porto's defending became more reckless as the first half wore on. As so often, relentless pressure and pinpoint passing from the Catalan side eventually forced a mistake.

When the error came it was a bad one, Guarín's attempted blind backpass finding Messi, who skipped around Helton in familiar fashion.

The Uefa president, Michel Platini, watching here from the well appointed stands, had earlier called Messi a "diamond" and on Thursday he picked up yet another trinket when he was named European Player of the Year.

One patented wiggle of the hips was enough to dump Brazilian goalkeeper Helton on his backside. Porto's players were already returning to the halfway line by the time he did so.

That was enough to silence the previously noisy Porto fans, but they were roused again at the beginning of the second half as the Portuguese side refused to roll over. João Moutinho went close and Guarín tried to atone for his earlier error by drawing a smart save from Víctor Valdes with a shot from distance.

Uefa designate the Super Cup a "free match", meaning that mooted Chelsea targets, Porto's Uruguayan full-back Alvaro Pereira and midfielder Moutinho, would not be cup-tied. But perhaps significantly, Pereira was not even named among the substitutes.

It was a lively opening, with Porto quicker out of the blocks as the Europa League winners tried to hustle the Champions League holders out of their unharried stride and geometric passing shapes.

Hulk curled a free kick in a promising position over the bar and Moutinho drew the first save from Valdés with a smart snapshot.

Barcelona were initially not quite at their metronomic best which, as against Real Madrid in those two gripping Spanish Super Cup ties, made for a more entertaining opening as Porto were able to compete for loose balls.

With Carles Puyol and Gerard Piqué still injured, the makeshift pairing of Eric Abidal and Mascherano continued in central defence for Barcelona. Yet even without a recognised centre-half on the pitch, they appeared largely comfortable.

Porto's dapper new coach, Vitor Pereira, paced the technical area and squatted on his haunches in a manner that has already become familiar to Chelsea fans as characteristics of his predecessor, and appeared initially satisfied.

But Barcelona began to turn the screw, as Messi, David Villa and Pedro Rodríguez started swarming all over the Porto backline. With an again outstanding Andrés Iniesta pulling the strings, by the end of the first half the possession split stood at 70/30.

Their insouciant dominance also highlighted just how difficult Fábregas, who began on the bench before coming on for Pedro with just over 10 minutes remaining, might find it to force his way into this starting lineup. But he made an immediate impact.

Barcelona's other big money buy of the summer, the Chilean winger Alexis Sánchez, was the first to get his chance from the bench. He will be expected to provide something different with his pace but – one promising run and shot aside - had little opportunity to get into the game here.

By the end, Barcelona were playing within themselves and Porto appeared heavy-legged. There was still the odd scare – Sergio Busquets almost contrived to head over his own goalkeeper and Porto's fans screamed optimistically for a penalty when Abidal clashed with Guarín. But their challenge petered out and the centre- back Ronaldo was sent off for a second yellow on 85 minutes, before Guarín followed minutes later.

It could have been an antiseptic experience given the extent to which the traditional season curtain-raiser is now used as part of Uefa's schmoozing and marketing campaign. But the two noisy sets of fans who made this toytown stadium feel like it had more than 18,048 present, and genuine commitment from the players, made for a compelling spectacle.

Guardiola had said before the match that "finals are meaningful when you play against clubs with a great history". He may also have been motivated by the fact that, at just 40, he is now the most decorated manager in Barcelona's illustrious history in terms of titles won.

It is safe to say there will be more - for him, for Fábregas, and for the rest of those who celebrated victory by linking arms in the centre circle.