The opening weekend in La Liga produced expected results but Real Madrid’s manner of victory will be a cause of concern for Carlo Ancelotti.
Cesc Fabregas stars in FC Barcelona’s rout of Levante
The Catalan club looked in the best of shapes against Levante as they were at their vintage best, dominating possession with the ball and pressing hard without it. In the third minute a brilliant passing move opened up Levante’s defense and Fabregas slid the ball for Alexis Sanchez to open the flood gates. Lionel Messi then scored his first goal of the season in the 12th minute and Barcelona ran rampant scoring four more before the end of the first half.
While they scored only one goal in the second half, the arrival of Neymar and substitution of Lionel Messi were the talking points. With half an hour to go, Neymar was brought in for Sanchez while Messi who had already scored a brace was withdrawn for Andres Iniesta in the 71st minute. It appeared to a sensible decision considering the state of the game as Messi walked off to a rousing ovation. The coach Tata Martino explained his decision post-match. “It’s about both sides understanding each other. Messi understands what this is about. It’s clear that we talked about it and it’s clear that I also have to be sufficiently careful to not sub him off five times in a row. It’s a relationship that requires balance.”
The Manchester United target Cesc Fabregas put on a stunning display and was involved in five of the seven goals scored. The former Gunner’s performance was ethereal and lethal highlighting his status in Tata Martino’s squad which makes his move to the Premier League highly improbable.
Real Madrid stutter but escape with a victory
Real Betis threatened to repeat their heroics from last season in which they beat Real Madrid 1-0 at their home. They started brilliantly and with Real Madrid’s defense looking shaky; Cedrick Mabwati charged towards the goal shrugging Sergio Ramos, helping Jorge Molina put the ball in the net to take the lead in the 14th minute.
Real Madrid tried to respond but Betis held an impressive offside line before Isco squared the ball to Karim Benzema to open the club’s scoring account this season. While the Whites looked decent in attack, it was in midfield and defense that they were overrun by the excellently drilled Betis squad. Pepe Mel did his homework perfectly as his players continuously found spaces between the lines while Dani Carvajal endured a terrible debut as Betis repeatedly attacked his flank.
Betis created numerous chances and could have taken the lead at the end of first half which ended 1-1. While the match appeared to be ending for a draw, Isco towered over the defense and scored an impressive goal, his first header ever, sending the fans into raptures and in the process rescued the important three points.
Carlo Ancelotti was critical of his defense post-match when he stated, “The problem was defence, on the whole. In the first half there was no balance, we didn’t play together and we had problems. In the second half we were better in this regard. In my opinion that was the problem in this match, the defence…It was a problem of balance. We didn’t defend well between the lines in midfield and defence, there was a lot of space between the lines”.
It was obvious that Madrid missed Xabi Alonso in the centre of the pitch, with Modric and Khedira both venturing forward continuously leaving too many spaces in between and the defense exposed. Another problem for Ancelotti was the play of Ozil. The German was the undisputed playmaker under Mourinho but with Isco playing centrally, Ozil found it difficult to create from the wings.
Another big talking point has been starting Diego Lopez over Iker Casillas. After all the speculation of Casillas starting, Ancelotti’s choice must surely hurt the Spain captain and it remains to be seen how he will respond to such a situation.
Atletico Start Positively
In what was an entertaining encounter, Atletico Madrid got the better of a depleted Sevilla side. Diego Costa, who reportedly rejected Liverpool’s advances scored twice to keep Atletico in touch with the Big Two. Sevilla fought hard but couldn’t breach the visiting side’s defense but they will be mighty pleased with their display inspite of losing their best players, Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas.
Atletico on the other hand, need to bolster their squad if they are to give any challenge to the monopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Villarreal, Real Sociedad and Valencia also claim victories
Villarreal announced their comeback to the Primera division in spectacular style as they came from behind twice to clinch a superb 3-2 victory over Almeria. Their new signing, Giovani Dos Santos proved to be the difference as he added a goal and an assist to his name.
Real Sociedad also won against Getafe 2-0, giving them the much necessary confidence before facing Lyon in the Champions League play-off. Antoine Griezmann and captain Xabi Prieto were on the bench, but La Real still managed to control the game to make an ideal start to their campaign.
Other results: Real Sociedad 2-0 Getafe, Valladolid 1-2 Athletic, Valencia 1-0 Málaga, Barcelona 7-0 Levante, Real Madrid 2-1 Real Betis, Osasuna 1-2 Granada, Sevilla 1-3 Atlético, Rayo 3 -0 Elche, Celta 2-2 Espanyol, Almería 2-3 Villarreal