Spain’s “big three” were all in action this weekend as the new La Liga season got underway. While many of the league’s biggest stars are still working their way back from their exploits on international duty this summer, there was no shortage of action as the most quality league in Europe resumed for its 85th season.
Barcelona 6 – 2 Real Betis
New season, same old Barcelona. Even without Neymar, who was busy winning an Olympic gold medal with Brazil, the Blaugrana were resplendent in a comprehensive rout of Real Betis at the Camp Nou. It took Barça just five minutes to get things going with Arda Turan latching onto a cut back from Jordi Alba and slotting home from close-range.
Real Betis responded positively and pulled one back about 15 minutes later after they were awarded a free kick, which was expertly converted by Ruben Castro.
Lionel Messi restored Barça’s lead, firing home from the edge of the area in the 37th minute. Luis Suarez piled more damage on poor Betis five minutes later, driving a shot home from 15 yards out to make it 3-1 at the break.
In the second half, the hosts picked up where they’d left off with Suarez scoring his second of the night after being set up by Messi. A minute later, Messi netted his second of the night, finishing in much the same fashion he had for his first. Suarez completed his hat trick in the 82nd minute with an immaculate free kick that curled around Betis’ wall and nestled in the top corner.
Castro pulled another back for the visitors a couple minutes later, but by that point it was merely damage control as Barcelona completed their high-flying start with a 6-2 win.
Real Sociedad 0 – 3 Real Madrid
Despite being without regular starting attackers Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, Real Madrid cruised to a relatively routine win against Real Sociedad, thanks in large part to Gareth Bale. The Welsh winger opened the scoring in just the second minute, heading home a cross from Dani Carvajal.
La Liga debutante Marco Asensio doubled Madrid’s lead five minutes before the break, lifting a ball over Sociedad’s onrushing keeper Geronimo Rulli. Bale added a second in extra time to complete his brace.
Sociedad, for their part, were perhaps unlucky not to have been awarded penalty kicks on more than one occasion, but did little else to trouble Real Madrid’s defense. In fact, were it not for the excellent performance of goalkeeper Rulli, the damage could have been much worse for the home team.
Atletico Madrid 1 – 1 Alaves
It took Atletico Madrid until the 93rd minute to find the opening goal against promotion side Deportivo Alaves and it took Alaves just two minutes after that to find the equalizer.
In the 90+ minutes leading up to the two goals, there was little to write home about. Kevin Gameiro had an impressive debut for Atleti and was denied from close range on more than one occasion. He eventually found the breakthrough, converting from the penalty spot after Atletico were controversially awarded a penalty in the dying moments of the match.
At that point it looked like Diego Simeone’s side were home and dry with three points. But the crowd at the Vicente Calderon was silenced two minutes later when Alaves striker Manu lashed home a wicked shot from 25 yards out that curled away from a diving Jan Oblak to nestle into the back of the net and tie the game at 1-1.
Round 1 Results: Barcelona 6 - 2 Real Betis, Granada 1 - 1 Villarreal, Sevilla FC 6 - 4 Espanyol, Sporting Gijon 2 -1 Athletic Bilbao, Atletico Madrid 1 -1 Alaves, Real Sociedad 0 - 3 Real Madrid
Still to Play: Celta Viga vs. Leganes, Valencia vs. Las Palmas