The opening match of the La Liga season took place on Friday evening at the San Mames Stadium. Barca handed a debut to big-money summer arrivals Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie De Jong but, with Lionel Messi out nursing a calf injury, they couldn’t break through a stubborn resistance in Bilbao.
The story could have had a somewhat different ending had Barcelona’s finishing been fine-tuned by a couple of inches. Both Luis Suarez and Rafinha hit the woodwork but it simply wasn’t in the script.
In the 88th minute and with things heading towards a draw, Athletic’s coach Gaizka Garitano switched Inaki Williams for legendary striker Aritz Aduriz. Just a minute later the sub, who is 38, acrobatically scissored home a deep cross to snatch all three points and, for a short while, Barcelona were bottom.
Aduriz has been in Athletic since 2012 and since then he has contributed with 172 goals, throughout 389 games! The club, who only accepts players born in the Basque region, is well known to challenge the big boys of the league and this time Barcelona had no flair to escape.
Real Madrid gets 3 points in Vigo
The big news in Real Madrid was the absence of Eden Hazard due to injury and a starting role for Gareth Bale, who looked destined to leave Madrid just a couple of weeks ago. It took Bale just 12 minutes to make his presence felt as his hard work down the left flank left Karim Benzema with a tap-in to give Real the lead.
Celta Vigo had the ball in the net just as half-time neared but VAR narrowly – but correctly – ruled the strikeout for offside. Then 10 minutes after the restart the video assistant was called upon again and this time it resulted in the marching orders of Luka Modric.
Not to be put off their game by what looked a soft red card, Madrid doubled their lead with a 30-yard thunderbolt by Toni Kroos that left Ruben Blanco clutching thin air as the ball ended in the top corner with a kiss off the crossbar.
With 10 minutes remaining Real made things safe as Lucas Vazquez smartly finished off a good team move but there was still time for a consolation goal. 18-year-old Iker Losada, who had only been on the field three minutes, hit an angled drive across Thibaut Courtois and into the corner.
A great start for Real Madrid, that gives the team hopes of a comeback season after last year’s ruinous spell.
Felix debuts with a win, an incredible run, and an injury
Meanwhile, in the final fixture of the weekend, Diego Simeone’s rebranded Atletico, hosted Getafe in Wanda Metropolitano. Getafe, who finished fifth last season, was not an opponent to underestimate and Atletico showed early they wanted the 3 points.
Things got off to a good start for Atletico as debutant right-back Kieran Trippier whipped a cross onto the head of Alvaro Morata who nodded home. As the match headed towards the break things became heated as Getafe man Jorge Molina was shown a straight red card for a stamp on Thomas Partey.
Then just four minutes later Madrid left-back Renan Lodi – another making his first appearance – saw two yellows in two minutes to bring his debut to a premature end.
Still, the Wanda Metropolitano got their first real glimpse of the magic Joao Felix has in his boots 10 minutes into the second half. He had a mesmerizing run from midfield into opponent’s box and Getafe defenders had to push him down to stop that counterattack.
Morata had the job to score another one from the resulting penalty kick, but the effort was saved by David Soria.
After a while, Felix left the field nursing an injury, which Simeone has already come to clear that it was not serious, just cramps.
Getafe threatened to level late on as Angel Rodriguez struck Jan Oblak’s crossbar from 20 yards, but Atletico survived with the 1-0 lead. They start the season in La Liga table with well-earned three points.
Granada gets back to La Liga with a goal-fest
It was an epic match the one that happened between the Yellow Submarine, Villarreal, and the returning side Granada, who were promoted to La Liga this season. In ‘El Madrigal, an evenly contested affair saw Santi Cazorla gave the home side the lead from the penalty spot.
However, before the last kick of the first half, Granada leveled with a penalty of their own as Fede Vico put the ball high to the right-hand corner.
After the restart it was goals galore; first Moi Gomez finished smartly to make it 2-1 to Villarreal, but Ruben Pena turned into his own net under pressure from Darwin Machis to level things up just after the hour.
Two home goals in quick succession from Gerard Moreno and Samuel Chukwueze, who scored the pick of the bunch with a strong run before calmly finishing, seemed to have the game wrapped up.
Still, Granada bagged two goals from corners, with Roberto Soldado and Antonio Puertas both heading it in, to ensure it was spoils shared. In the end, it was 4-4 and we are sure the neutral viewers are not complaining.
Mallorca and Osasuna get the perfect return to La Liga
Granada got off to a decent start to life in La Liga with an away point but Mallorca and Osasuna went one better to collect all three.
Mallorca triumphed 2-1 over Eibar; Dani Rodriguez burst clear of a non-existent away defense before sliding home to give Mallorca the dream start after just 4 minutes.
Some smart saves from experienced stopper Manolo Reina kept Eibar at bay until Paulo Oliveira reacted quicker to a loose ball following another Reina stop on 57.
Oliveira quickly turned villain for the visitors though hacking into his own net following a teasing cross from Joan Sastre.
Osasuna, meanwhile, traveled to Estadio Butarque to take on Leganes and they were made to work for their victory as VAR saved them from going one goal down. Then the keeper Ruben Martinez denied the hosts an opener on a number of occasions.
The newly-promoted side then struck through new signing Chimy Avila, who profited from a lucky bounce before rifling a not so lucky drive into Ivan Cuellar’s bottom corner. The action wasn’t over though as Leganes were reduced to 10 men since Oscar Rodriguez saw red for a lunging challenge to cap a poor afternoon. 1-0 was the final score.
Betis disappoints in Fekir’s debut
The face-off between Real Betis and Real Valladolid got off to a fast start with home goalie Joel Robles seeing red for bringing down Sandro on the edge of the box. It was just 8 minutes in, but they held firm until 63 when Sergi Guardiola produced a goal from nothing with a turn and low hit from the edge of the area.
Betis weren’t done though, and they equalized with a fantastically well-worked goal; Emerson fed the ball forwards and William Carvalho dummied, leaving the unmarked Loren Moron to sweep home.
The 10 men looked set to gain a hard-fought point but with less than a minute left on the clock, Oscar Plano swiveled and left sub keeper Daniel Fernandez rooted to the spot to snatch a win.
Real Sociedad takes 1-point home at the 101 minute
Valencia and Real Sociedad played out a 1-1 draw at the Mestalla Stadium. Kevin Gameiro was left with a simple tap in after a flowing team move on 59 but he missed the opportunity to put the match to bed in injury time by blazing a penalty high and wide.
To rub salt into Gameiro’s wound, in the 101st minute Sociedad were awarded a free-kick, which struck a hand in the wall resulting in the award of a spot-kick; Mikel Oyarzabal duly rolled it in for an undeserved point.
Sevilla and Alaves start La Liga with wins
If Betis were held by Valladolid, their city rivals, Sevilla did not sleep on the opening match. A dominant side, coached by Lopetegui, overcame Espanyol (2-0) through a scrappy goal just before the break – Sergio Reguilon the man on the scoresheet.
Finally, slack marking allowed Nolito to score with ease with five minutes remaining. The game also saw plenty of debuts of the 10 signings that Sevilla already made.
To conclude the La Liga round-up, Alaves defeated Levante 1-0 thanks to a header that just about crossed the line from Joselu.
There you have it, the round-up of the first week of the La Liga season. Real Madrid is sitting top, the newly promoted sides are undefeated and Barcelona finds themselves in a relegation scrap.
Perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into one round of fixtures!