Barcelona humbled by penniless Numancia
Monday 01 September 2008
IT was all going so well for Barcelona – a string of impressive victories in pre-season and £75m spent on new signings – just a shame the league had to start. New coach Pep Guardiola's team showed the same frailties that blighted last season, blowing a host of chances yesterday in a 1-0 defeat to penniless Numancia, who spent exactly £75m less than Barca in the summer.
For La Liga's other multimillionaires, Real Madrid, there was also misery on the road. While Robinho was back in the capital slating his employers, Real were missing the Brazilian's spark and imagination as they lost to Deportivo.
If Real Madrid's defeat was half-expected – they have not won at Riazor for 17 years – Barcelona's was a complete shock. "We played badly," admitted Guardiola. "We were undisciplined and people were not doing their jobs. You have to open the pitch when the opposition plays with 10 behind the ball and we did not do that. We did not attack well."
Samuel Eto'o was the first to squander a clear cut opening missing from an Andres Iniesta pass. Then Thierry Henry, once again exiled to the left-hand side of Barça's attack, cut in from the flank only to see his shot saved by Juan Pablo in the Numancia goal .
The home side took the lead through Mario Martinez who made the most of being left completely unmarked at the far post converting Carlos Bellvis's centre. Eto'o then scraped the bar before Yaya Toure and Xavi went close, but Numancia rode their luck. Henry moved to centre-forward in the second half but there was no way past Numancia's modestly assembled defence.
Henry made way for Bojan Krkic and the 18-year-old came close with a header. Eto'o also nodded wide and with a last desperate throw of the dice Lionel Messi struck a post with a 90th minute free-kick.
In their defeat to Deportivo, Real Madrid fell behind on 26 minutes when Mista left his marker Pepe to head past Iker Casillas. Arjen Robben had their best first-half chance to equalise but stroked the chance wide with the outside of his left foot cutting in from the right. When Real did level it was Ruud van Nistelrooy who latched on to a loose ball clinically finishing after Raul had had a shot blocked.
Madrid sought out what would be their first victory in Coruña since 1991 but it was Deportivo who scored next with an Alberto Lopo header from a corner to seal the points.
With the big two losing, Liverpool's Champions League opponents Atletico Madrid top the first league table after a 4-0 home victory over Malaga. Diego Forlan scored twice and former Liverpool forward Sinama Pongolle was also on target.
Valencia were the other impressive starters brushing aside Real Mallorca with Euro 2008 hero David Villa scoring the first goal. The winger Joquí*was left out of the squad amid speculation that he will move to Real Madrid today if the Spanish champions finally decide to let Robinho join Chelsea.
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