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La Liga: Week 1 Review; Barcelona and Real Madrid Dominate while Atlético Madrid and Athletic Bilbao Drop Points

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Scoring five goals was not enough for Barcelona to go into the international break on top of the Primera División.
Scoring five goals was not enough for Barcelona to go into the international break on top of the Primera División.

Sporting Gijón 1 - 2 Real Sociedad
Real Socieded started the season in impressive fashion at El Molinón. The opening half hour left much to be desired as both teams struggled to make strings of successful passes, but Sociedad woke up after that mark. Xavi Prieto sent in a high cross that was met by Imanol Agirretxe who powered it past Juan Pablo Colinas (34'). The visitors seized control and Agirretxe was again on the mark in the 65th when he doubled the lead with another header. Three minutes later Sporting, determined to overturn the result, pulled one back through Miguel de las Cuevas who successfully converted a penalty after Carlos Martinez was sent off. Despite the man advantage the hosts couldn't tie the score.

Valencia CF 4 - 3 Racing Santander
Roberto Soldado started the season with aplomb as he led Valencia to a stunning comeback over Racing. The Valencia striker needed only one minute to poke in a fumbled Pablo Hernandez's drive and open his season account. Five minutes later Soldado scored again, but this time he negated his goal as he sent the ball past Vicente Guaita. Against the run of play Racing added two more goals as Lautaro Acosta (14') and Adriano Gonzalez (56') built a lead that looked unreachable for Valencia.

Yet, the hosts gave it their best and in the 57th minute Adil Rami rose the highest in the box and directed a corner kick into the top corner. Even with Los Che's best efforts the three points still appeared to be heading to Cantabria just two minutes from death. Soldado, however, had different plans. First he fired a low shot to tie the game (88') and two minutes later he tipped a low cross home to complete the stunning comeback.

Granada CF 0 - 1 Real Betis
The two newly promoted sides squared off on the opening day of the season, with the Sevilla-based Betis winning by the narrowest of margins. The visitors dominated the game, but struggled to consistently threaten Granada goalkeeper Roberto. The hosts weren't without chances, but there were few and far between. The game appeared to be headed for a scoreless draw, but in the dying minutes Rubén Castro managed to put Betis in front with a close range header after a breakdown in defensive coverage from Granada (88').

Altético Madrid 0 - 0 Osasuna
Atlético enjoyed total control over their opponents, but throughout the whole match they were firing blanks. Los Rojiblancos fired 28 shots, eight on target, but without last year's attacking duo of Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan as well new signing Radamel Falcao those attempts didn't find their way past Asier Riesgo and Andres Fernandez, who combined to keep a clean sheet. The player closest to breaking the deadlock was Jose Antonio Reyes who fired one off the post. Osasuna had two late chances to steal the victory, but Roland Lamah was stopped by Thibaut Courtois while another shot minutes later sailed just wide.

Athletic Bilbao 1 - 1 Rayo Vallecano
The Basque giants should have made easy work of the newly promoted Madrid side, but Rayo proved that they are no pushovers, at least for the time being. Despite controlling possession, the hosts couldn't pin Rayo back for prolonged periods. However, after a few good saves from Dani Gimenez Athletic finally broke the tie after a long team move that was capped off by Ander Iturraspe (56'). The visitors, though, didn't lose focus and quickly managed to equalize though José María Movilla (62'). The Basques were the better team in the remaining half hour, but the score remained tied.

Getafe CF 1 - 1 Levante UD
Though Levante were completely outplayed by Getafe, they escaped Madrid with a point. The hosts played a good game, regularly threatening Gustavo Munua's goal, but it took them 62 minutes to break the deadlock, when Miku's powerful drive found the back of the net. The visitors were bested in every facet of the game, yet somehow they managed to find the equalizer through Juanlu who scored under controversial circumstances. Carlos Aranda, who set up Juanlu, handled the ball, but the incident didn't catch the eye of the referee.

RCD Mallorca 1 - 0 RCD Espanyol
In a fairly evenly contested game the islanders were able to scrape out enough to start the season on a high note. Mallorca started the game strong, but had several shots stopped by Cristian Alvarez. Espanyol could have done more with their opportunities, but without last years' top performers Pablo Osvaldo and Jose Maria Callejon they were lacking decisiveness in attack. The difference maker proved to be Jonathan De Guzman whose deflected shot caught Alvarez wrong-footed (63')

Real Zaragoza 0 - 6 Real Madrid
Real Madrid started the new season the same way they ended the last one; terrorizing small, helpless teams. Cristiano Ronaldo capped off the night with a hat-trick (24', 71', 87') and was accompanied on the scoresheet by Marcelo (28'), Xabi Alonso (64') and Kaká (84'). Madrid's dominance is best reflected in the statistics: 39 shots fired, 16 of them on goal. Zaragoza have to thank their goalkeeper Roberto Gago who spared them an even worse humiliation.

Sevilla FC 2 - 1 Málaga CF
In this highly anticipated match the hosts managed to maximize on their early two goal lead as Málaga proved to be a formidable opponent.˙Álvaro Negredo only needed two minutes to get on the scoreboard as he connected with Jesus Navas' cross and put Sevilla in front. The ex-Real Madrid striker doubled his tally with a well placed 17-yard shot after he was picked out by Diego Perroti. In the second half Málaga completely outplayed their hosts, but Sevilla managed to keep them at bay. Santi Cazorla, however, took matters in his own feet, right foot to be exact, and sent a stunning free kick into the top right corner (81'). That, though, was the only goal visitors were able to put together and Sevilla celebrated their first victory of the new season.

FC Barcelona 5 - 0 Villarreal CF
The match of the week proved to be a real cracker, but contrary to predictions Barcelona encountered no problems sinking the Yellow Submarine. The untested 3-4-3 formation worked wonderfully as Barca's players ran circles around their opponents. Newcomers Cesc Fabregas (45') and Alexis Sanchez (47') scored their first La Liga goals on their league debut. Combined with Thiago Alcantara's (25') and Lionel Messi's (52', 74') goals, the awe-inspiring performance ended in a Manita, but it could have ended much worse for Villarreal, who looked flat footed from the get go.

Recap
La Liga is back with a bang. 30 goals were scored over three days, 18 of them in just only three games. One goal came from a spot-kick (only one was awarded) while two players were sent off. Interestingly enough both red cards and the penalty were awarded in the same match, the season opener, Sporting Gijón vs Real Sociedad.

Barcelona and Real Madrid appear like they haven't lost a single step compared to last season. What's more, both of them look much improved and every dropped point by either team should be decisive in the title race. Yes, I'm talking about the title race in the fist week; based on the way the two juggernauts played there isn't a single team in Spain that can stop them.

The biggest disappointments of the week were definitely Atlético Madrid and Athetic Bilbao. The Basques brought in new faces to bring them closer to the top tier of Spanish football and contend for the Champions League. Hence they can't afford to drop points against teams like Rayo Vallecano. Los Colchoneros, on the other hand, desperately need Falcao to be the goalscoring machine he was with Porto so they can collect points more regularly.

Málaga showed that the team is heading towards the right direction, and while the unfamiliarity between players is still noticeable, they have the potential for a Champions League finish.

After months of no La Liga football, even more extended by the strike, the Spanish league is taking some time off for international football. The exact dates and times of Day 2 are still unknown but games will be played on the Sunday September 11 weekend.



GP W D L +/- Pts
1 Real Madrid
1
1
0
0 6
3
2 FC Barcelona 1
1
0
0
5
3
3 Valencia CF 1
1
0
0
1
3
4 Real Sociedad
1 1
0
0
1
3
5 Sevilla FC 1
1
0
0
1
3
6 Real Betis
1
1
0
0
1
3
7 RCD Mallorca
1
1
0
0
1
3
8 Getafe CF
1 0
1
0
0
1
9 Levante UD
1
0
1
0
0
1
10 Rayo Vallecano
1
0
1
0
0
1
11 Athletic Bilbao
1
0
1
0
0
1
12 Atlético Madrid 1
0
1
0
0
1
13 Osasuna
1
0
1
0
0
1
14 Racing Santander
1
0
0
1
-1
0
15 Málaga CF
1
0
0
1
-1
0
16 Sporting Gijón
1
0
0
1
-1 0
17 RCD Espanyol 1
0
0
1
-1 0
18 Granada CF
1
0
0
1
-1 0
19 Villarreal CF 1
0
0
1
-5 0
20 Real Zaragoza
1
0
0
1
-7 0

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