La Liga: Cristiano Ronaldo scores as Real Madrid make winning start but Atletico Madrid held
Tired champions struggle against Rayo as attack-minded Real grind down Cordoba
Tuesday 26 August 2014
Champions Atletico Madrid made a sluggish start to the defence of their La Liga title with a 0-0 draw against Rayo Vallecano while a header from Karim Benzema and a late Cristiano Ronaldo strike helped Real Madrid beat promoted Cordoba 2-0 last night.
Mario Mandzukic missed two clear chances in the first half for Atletico, whose Spanish Super Cup victory last Friday over Real appeared to take its toll as the players looked fatigued in the second half.
"The team played very well, they could have scored in the first half and later what happened is normal. We played Tuesday and Friday last week and put in all that effort," Atletico coach Diego Simeone told a news conference.
"We were better in the first half and had three clear chances and Rayo improved in the second half and caused us problems."
Simeone was absent from the touchline due to a ban from last season and he has been given a further eight-match sanction on Monday for his dismissal and angry reaction in the Super Cup.
Atletico were missing in-form Raul Garcia in attack through suspension and was repalced by Raul Jimenez while midfielder Arda Turan was still injured.
Rayo had a number of new faces but they continued the same possession-based style from last season and also looked more solid at the back.
Mandzukic first failed to hit the target as he stretched for a cross with the goal gaping and then he shot tamely at the keeper Cristian Alvarez, but for most of the time Rayo held their own.
In the second half Rayo began to dominate with Javier Aquino in particular a threat but if Atletico were lacking their usual attacking menace they were typically secure at the back and did not give Rayo many scoring opportunities.
It was a more attacking Real lineup with James Rodriguez starting ahead of Xabi Alonso in midfield and they failed to link up well in a scrappy opening spell.
Real began to raise the tempo with Ronaldo and Toni Kroos having shots from the edge of the area which Cordoba keeper Juan Carlos Martin dealt with comfortably and the pressure told with Benzema's goal after 30 mintues - his second goal in 15 games.
The visitors made it difficult for Real after the restart and Xisco thought he had equalised midway through the second half but was called offside.
They gave Real few chances but still Ronaldo showed his quality by taking full advantage of the opening he had with a 25-yard drive into the corner to settle the game in the final minute.
"I have always rated the quality of Karim even though he wasn't scoring," coach Carlo Ancelotti told a news conference.
"It would be more worrying if he were in top condition at this stage as is the same for all.
"We need to speed up the play more. The most important thing was to start with a win which we did even though we had tos uffer.
"We controlled the game well and tried to mix possession with more direct play."
Latest in Sport
How Liverpool can catch Manchester United and secure Champions League football next season
Arsenal transfer news: 'We are not close to signing anybody. We need to lose some players,' says Arsene Wenger
Danny Jones: Keighley Cougars half-back dies after cardiac arrest during league game
Chelsea season player ratings: Grading the entire squad of the new Premier League champions
Floyd Mayweather beats Manny Pacquiao by a unanimous points decision - but Pacquiao thinks he should have won, saying 'he did nothing'
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils