maandag 20 augustus 2012

First games from La Liga

1-1: Real Madrid deserved much more
The Whites, much superior to their rivals, had to overcome even the posts against Valencia who clung on thanks to Alves and who only had one chance on target

Three months later, almost 100 days, 99 to be exact, the Liga returned to the Santiago Bernabeu. The return of the Liga saw Real Madrid held to a draw despite being far superior to their opponents. The Whites had almost 20 clear opportunities to win the encounter, 11 corners and a clear penalty that was not awarded by referee Delgado Ferreiro. Higuaín put the home team ahead and Jonas, in the closing minutes of the first half, equalised with what proved to be Pellegrino’s team’s only shot on goal. In the second half there were more and more opportunities for the Whites, who came across an inspired Alves and even the crossbar from a Higuaín header. The start to a season is always difficult, but this Real Madrid team, the same squad that won 100 points and scored 121 goals last season, showed clear signs of their pride and wining mentality.

With suffocating pressure up front and plenty of balance in the midfield, Real Madrid was the first team to fire a warning shot, doing so on two occasions barely inside the first five minutes, both shots coming from the forwards. Cristiano Ronaldo was the first to shoot in the second minute, and Di María did the same two minutes later, before setting up Higuaín to put the Whites ahead on the scoreboard. The Argentine’s precise pass was made the most of by his fellow countryman who, in the right position, controlled the ball, and after three attempts, beat Alves. Higuaín scored Real Madrid’s first official goal of the season and only needed 9 minutes to do so.

Nothing changed after the goal. Real Madrid and Valencia shared possession of the ball but the hosts were the only team to convert the possession into opportunities. Xabi Alonso from outside the area in minute 23, Özil, who struck badly with his right foot in minute 34, and Cristiano Ronaldo, who attempted a volley and a poor clearance Alves in minute 39, all had chances to score the second goal. However, the best opportunity fell to Coentrão. A spectacular one-two between Higuaín and CR7 and the Portuguese player’s inviting pass left his fellow countryman in front of the visiting goalkeeper. His shot was cleared by Alves, who put the ball behind for a corner. 

Everything seemed to point towards Real Madrid heading to the dressing rooms with an advantage on the scoreboard, but bad luck had other designs and with four minutes remaining in the first half. A free-kick taken by Tino Costa and Jonas stole a march on Casillas to beat him with a header. It was the visitors only shot on target and after the play both Pepe and the Madrid captain had to be attended to, after clashing in the air with teammate Xabi Alonso. Both received knocks, although the defender was the worse off of the two, ending the first half with a bandage around his head and had to be substituted by Albiol when the game got underway after the break. 

A rush of opportunities after the break
Real Madrid was the dominant team in the second half. The Whites were dangerous and Valencia defended as they could and attempted to surprise the Whites on the counter attack. The opportunities kept coming and Mourinho, courageous and attacking, gambled by adding more cutting edge to the team. Benzema replaced Lass in minute 60, and from that moment the hosts had ten clear opportunities to score their second goal. Higuaín had the clearest of the opportunities, but his header met the crossbar after beating Alves minute 65. 

Real Madrid was a force to be reckoned with. Özil once again came across an inspired Alves in minute 66, Benzema was off target in front of goal in minute 67 and this was the case for another ten opportunities. Even Di María claimed a clear penalty. The Argentine, was knocked down by his fellow countryman Gago, fell down injured and had to be replaced immediately by Callejón, who could have given his team victory but whose great left-footed shot was brilliantly stopped by the Valencia goalkeeper in minute 82. More and more opportunities came until the final whistle, bringing to an end an undeserved draw for a team that has showed clear signs of their pride and wining mentality. The Whites return to action on Thursday at the Camp Nou, with the Spanish Super Cup up for grabs.


Barcelona 5-1 Real Sociedad
Villa returns with a goal as Blaugrana batter Basques
The Catalans' campaign could not have got off to a better start, with the forward putting the seal on a scintillating team performance with a fine strike shortly after coming on

Lionel Messi - FC Barcelona, Real Sociedad

The Tito Vilanova era at Camp Nou began in fine style as Barcelona romped to a 5-1 win over Real Sociedad in their Primera Division season opener on Sunday night.

While Real Madrid stumbled to an 1-1 draw against Valencia earlier in the day, the Blaugrana's new boss picked up where predecessor Pep Guardiola left off, dominating their beleaguered Basque opponents from start to finish during an emphatic victory. 

Carles Puyol headed Barca in front after four minutes, only for Gonzalo 'Chori' Castro to restore parity with an opportunistic finish moments later. But then Lionel Messi took over, scoring a pair of poacher's efforts in the 11th and 16th minutes to give the Catalans a lead they would never relinquish.

Pedro added the fourth just before half-time and Barca's perfect beginning to the season was completed by the return of David Villa from injury, with the Spain international marking his comeback with the home side's fifth and final goal, six minutes from the end.
Vilanova was not the only debutant for Barca, as Jordi Alba, the €14 million signing from Valencia, was handed a start at left-back. One of Sociedad’s new recruits, Castro, began up front, but fellow summer signings Carlos Vela and Jose Angel both had to settle for a place on the bench.

It took the Catalans only four minutes to break the deadlock, though the goal came, for them, in somewhat unconventional fashion, with a corner from Xavi being thumped in by the head of Puyol.

Sociedad were straight back down the pitch, with Castro coming within inches of connecting with a dangerous centre from Xabi Prieto at the far post. However, the ball did find its way to the former moments later - and he took full advantage.

Asier Illarramendi slipped a clever pass just in front of Dani Alves, putting Castro through on goal and he had the time to take a touch before burying his finish high into the roof of the net.

But just as Sociedad were able to hit back right after conceding, so too did Barcelona, who regained the lead within two minutes of the restart.

Messi’s uncharacteristically poor touch allowed a decent cross from Cristian Tello to get away from him, but Pedro worked the rebound back to the Argentine, who wriggled through his markers and slotted home.

Messi’s predatory instincts came to the fore again moments later, the forward reacting quickest to a Tello centre to drill the Blaugrana into a 3-1 lead, all after 16 minutes.

With a two-goal cushion, the hosts settled into their typical monopolisation of possession, suffocating Sociedad in their own half with large periods of metronomic passing.

A sublime combination between Messi and Cesc Fabregas carved the visitors apart, with only the legs of Claudio Bravo denying the Argentine his hat-trick.

Sociedad only threatened intermittently on the counter, but an audacious lob from the halfway line by Gorka Elustondo would force Victor Valdes into a safety-first palm over the bar.

However, Barcelona were always in control and with four minutes to go until half-time, they added a fourth in emphatic and enthralling fashion.

Messi, Xavi and Fabregas were all involved in a build-up that split Sociedad in two, with the ball worked wide to Tello, who centred to Pedro to stroke into the far corner.

Sociedad set up for a damage-limitation exercise in the second half, though Antoine Griezmann snatched at an early opening as he fired wide from a good position.

However, the focus was always at the other end of the pitch and an outstanding one-touch sequence between Messi and Pedro ended with the former blasting his finish into the side netting when he should have hit the target.

Xavi was next to try his luck, letting loose from 20 yards out with a strong arm from Bravo denying him a goal of his own.

The home fans were in jubilant spirits, which were kicked up a notch by the introduction of Villa for Pedro with a quarter of an hour to go, the Spain striker making his long-awaited return from the fractured tibia he suffered last December.

And Villa did not miss a beat, finishing a mazy run from Iniesta with aplomb in the 84th minute to round off a picture-perfect start to the new season for Barcelona, who will now go into their midweek Spanish Supercopa clash with great rivals Real Madrid brimming with belief.


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