And so it begins. La Liga got off to a bang this weekend, with fans in each stadium and some scintillating storylines already in full flight. Much of the rhetoric around the new season has centred on the absence of Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos, but there’s still a great deal of intrigue as to how this campaign will pan out. There’s life in Spanish football yet, you could say.
Atletico Madrid, reigning champions of course, started as they mean to carry on with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Celta Vigo at Balaidos. Angel Correa put Diego Simeone’s men ahead in the 23rd minute before Iago Aspas equalised from the spot on the hour, with Correa striking again five minutes later to secure a strong away win in Galicia. Hugo Mallo and Mario Hermoso both saw red in injury time following a scuffle.
Barcelona began the post-Messi era in style over in Catalonia, beating Real Sociedad 4-2 at Camp Nou. Gerard Pique scored the opener in the 19th minute, assisted by the man his wage cut helped register, Memphis Depay.
Martin Braithwaite then scored a brace to send the blaugrana clear, only for La Real to come back into it in the final ten minutes through goals from Julen Lobete Cienfuegos and Mikel Oyarzabal. Sergi Roberto popped up at the death to quell any comeback, however, and secure the points.
Real Madrid are in a period of transition themselves following the departure of not just Ramos but also Zinedine Zidane and Raphael Varane, but got Carlo Ancelotti’s reign off to a positive start. They beat Alaves 4-1 at Mendizorroza, thanks to a brace from the peerless Karim Benzema as well as goals from Nacho and Vinicius. Joselu pulled one back for the hosts from the spot in the 65th minute, but it was to be a mere consolation, if even that.
Down in Andalusia, where temperatures were at 35 degrees celsius touching midnight, Sevilla welcomed their passionate supporters back to the Sanchez-Pizjuan with a 3-0 win over newly-promoted Rayo Vallecano. The game was coloured by Luca (yes, son of Zinedine) Zidane’s early red card, after which Rayo failed to really compete with Sevilla. Youssef En-Nesyri converted from the spot in the resulting penalty before Erik Lamela, making his debut for the club, bagged a brace.
Valencia beat Getafe 1-0 to get Jose Bordalas’ stewardship of the club off to a great start, with the new coach getting one over his previous employer at Mestalla, his new office. Carlos Soler scored the only goal of the game, an eleventh minute penalty. Both Hugo Guillamon and Erick Cabaco saw red. At the Visit Mallorca Stadium, newly-promoted Mallorca earned a solid 1-1 draw against Europa League side Real Betis. Brian Olivan put the hosts ahead in the 25th minute only for a Manolo Reina own goal to level proceedings and ensure the tie ended all square.
Cadiz also drew 1-1, with Levante at the Nuevo Mirandilla. Jose Luis Morales gave the visitors from Valencia the lead six minutes before half-time, but Alfonso Espino managed to score a (literally) last-gasp equaliser in the 97th minute to rescue a point. The only scoreless draw of matchday one took place at El Sadar, where Osasuna were held by newly-promoted Espanyol. The final two games of round one take place this evening, with Villarreal facing Granada at La Ceramica and Athletic Bilbao travelling to Elche.