Football: Barcelona fail to impress

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The Independent Online
BARCELONA, WHO face Manchester United in the Champions' League on Wednesday, secured their first win of the new Spanish League season, beating Extremadura 1-0 at the Nou Camp on Saturday thanks to a first-half strike from their captain, Luis Figo.

Patrick Kluivert made a quiet debut for the Catalan club, who were far from impressive in a close game. But a calm finish from the Portuguese international Figo, after he had been set up by Rivaldo, proved enough to secure the three points. Barcelona fielded just two Spanish players.

The former Middlesbrough striker Juninho made a dramatic return to league action, inspiring Atletico Madrid to a 2-0 home win over Salamanca after coming on as a substitute. He won a penalty converted by the Yugoslav midfielder, Vladimir Jugovic, and then set up Kiko for the second.

Real Madrid's 1-0 victory over Valladolid, courtesy of a Pedrag Mijatovic header, was marred by the late sending-off of Roberto Carlos, who will miss next weekend's crucial fixture with Barcelona.

Juventus began the defence of their Italian Serie A title on Sunday with a thrilling 4-3 win at Perugia yesterday. The Turin side were 3-0 ahead at half-time but the Japanese World Cup playmaker Hidetoshi Nakata brought Perugia back into contention with two goals on his debut. Daniel Fonseca added a fourth for Juve before Antonio Bernardini pulled one back with a late penalty.

Internazionale and Lazio had to settle for draws. Inter, missing the suspended Ronaldo, fought back with two late goals by the substitute Nicola Ventola to draw 2-2 at newly-promoted Cagliari.

Lazio took the lead in the 73rd minute at Piacenza with a long-range strike from the Serb, Dejan Stankovic. But Simone Inzaghi - the brother of the Juventus striker Filippo - replied with a header three minutes from time.

Germany's Oliver Bierhoff celebrated his Milan Serie A debut by scoring twice as the former European champions kicked off their season with a convincing 3-0 win over Bologna. Leonardo scored with a delicate lob to make it 3-0.

Unfancied Westerlo took the honours in a seven-goal thriller against Lokeren on Saturday to go top of the Belgian League for the first time in their history, while Anderlecht won 3-0 at Germinal Ekeren to climb off the bottom.

Luis Aragones, the veteran former Real Betis coach, said yesterday that he had turned down an offer to become the coach of Spain.

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