La Liga Wrap: Barcelona Crush Levante; Basque Sides Win; Valencia Top Malaga

Jerrad Peters@@jerradpetersWorld Football Staff WriterAugust 18, 2013

La Liga Wrap: Barcelona Crush Levante; Basque Sides Win; Valencia Top Malaga

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    The Spanish top flight kicked off on Saturday with a trio of matches featuring teams with legitimate European aspirations.

    In picturesque San Sebastian, hosts Real Sociedad welcomed Getafe to the Anoeta, and there were also matches in Valladolid and Valencia, where Athletic Bilbao and Malaga visited.

    On Sunday, Barcelona swept aside Levante in Gerardo "Tata" Martino's first league match as Neymar made his Liga bow.

    Statistics courtesy of

Barcelona 7-0 Levante

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    A rampant Barcelona swept aside a poor Levante side, sending a message to the rest of La Liga with a 7-0 demolition of Levante on Sunday. Barca scored six first-half goals through five different players before cantering to full time in Gerardo "Tata" Martino's league debut as Barca's manager.

    The hosts needed only moments to break down Levante, with Alexis Sanchez opening the scoring in the third minute. Cesc Fabregas collected a through ball in the box and played across for Alexis, who tapped in.

    Cesc started the next scoring move as well, chesting down for Lionel Messi, who exchanged passes with Pedro before tucking away a low finish in the 12th minute. Dani Alves made it 3-0 in the 24th minute, converting a rebound, and the rout was on.

    Pedro scored Barca's fourth with a curling shot in the 26th minute before Messi's 42nd-minute penalty made it 5-0. Xavi Hernandez then finished Cesc's looping, lofted ball in first-half stoppage time for Barcelona's sixth.

    After the break, new signing Neymar made his Liga debut, entering as a substitute for Alexis in the 64th minute. Pedro scored his second of the game, Barcelona's seventh, in the 73rd minute.

    Shots: Barcelona 22-4 Levante

    Passing: Barcelona 92%-61% Levante

    Possession: Barcelona 78%-22% Levante

Real Madrid 2-1 Real Betis

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    Summer signing Isco scored a dramatic winner to give new Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti a positive debut in a 2-1 home victory over Real Betis on Sunday.

    Betis had taken the lead in the 14th minute through Jorge Molina, but Karim Benzema equalised for Madrid 12 minutes later. The score was 1-1 at halftime, but both teams could have scored more before the break. Three times Madrid had goals ruled out for offside and Betis came close through Nosa's powerful header, which cannoned off Diego Lopez's crossbar in the 36th minute.

    Madrid threatened throughout the second half, with Cristiano Ronaldo forcing multiple saves, but the score remained level until the 86th minute. Then Isco—who signed for Madrid from Malaga in July—headed in Marcelo's cross for the winner.

    Ancelotti, who managed Paris Saint-Germain to the Ligue 1 title last season, opted for Lopez in goal ahead of Spain No. 1 Iker Casillas.

    Shots: Madrid 20-11 Betis

    Passing: Madrid 85%-75% Betis

    Possession: Madrid 62%-38% Betis

Valencia 1-0 Malaga

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    The Bernd Schuster era at Malaga got off to a losing start on Saturday as the visiting Boquerones fell 1-0 to Valencia at the Mestalla.

    Moments after Fede had won a foul off Vitorino Antunes in the 64th minute, Ricardo Costa had the ball in the back of the net following the resulting set piece. While Bobley Anderson, Fabrice and Fernando Tissone had opportunities to restore level terms late in the second period, they simply could not find a way through the Valencia defense.

    Malaga, who lost manager Manuel Pellegrini to Manchester City over the summer, also parted with Julio Baptista, Martin Demichelis, Manuel Iturra, Joaquin, Jeremy Toulalan and Isco during the summer transfer period and could be in for a long season.

    Shots: Valencia 9-11 Malaga

    Passing: Valencia 85%-72% Malaga

    Possession: Valencia 63%-37% Malaga

Real Valladolid 1-2 Athletic Bilbao

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    Ernesto Valverde earned three points in his first match as Athletic Bilbao manager Saturday, as the Basque side triumphed 2-1 over Real Valladolid in Castile and Leon.

    Markel Susaeta opened the scoring for the guests in the 28th minute following an Athletic corner, but it took just three minutes for Valladolid to equalize through the German Patrick Ebert.

    The stage was set for someone to grab the match by the horns and notch the winner, and Iker Muniain proved equal to the occasion just five minutes after the restart when his powerful shot nestled inside the top left-hand corner of the goal beyond the reach of goalkeeper Diego Marino Villar.

    Shots: Real Valladolid 8-13 Athletic Bilbao

    Passing: Real Valladolid 83%-77% Athletic Bilbao

    Possession: Real Valladolid 58%-42% Athletic Bilbao

Real Sociedad 2-0 Getafe

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    No doubt Real Sociedad came into Saturday’s contest against Getafe with one eye on Tuesday’s Champions League playoff away to Lyon, but that didn’t stop them from coming away with the three points at the final whistle.

    Sociedad, who finished fourth in La Liga last season thanks in large part to one of the best defensive units in the league, once again were difficult to break down, as Inigo Martinez and Ion Ansotegui keeping things tidy in front of goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.

    At the other end of the park, Carlos Vela opened the scoring with just three minutes remaining in the opening period, and Haris Seferovic sealed the win with a 70th-minute insurance marker after receiving Vela’s accurate through ball.

    Shots: Real Sociedad 16-15 Getafe

    Passing: Real Sociedad 83%-80% Getafe

    Possession: Real Sociedad 51%-49% Getafe

Sevilla 1-3 Atletico Madrid

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    Diego Costa’s double helped Atletico Madrid to a 3-1 victory at Sevilla on Sunday.

    Costa opened the scoring for Atletico in the 35th minute, converting while unmarked at the far post after Sevilla failed to clear a corner.

    Two minutes later, Sevilla were level through Diego Perotti’s long-distance golazo, a powerful and precise strike into the top corner (video at left).

    Costa scored the winner in the 79th minute, holding off a defender and finishing low at the far post. Koke had the assist. Cristian Rodriguez added Atleti's third in the second minute of stoppage time, converting from a tight angle.

    Atletico this season will rely on Costa to fill the void left by departed striker Radamel Falcao.

    Three more Liga matches are scheduled for Monday to close out the opening round of matches. Rayo Vallecano host newcomers Elche, champions of the Segunda Division last season. Celta Vigo host Espanyol, and Almeria host Villarreal in a matchup of promoted sides.

Osasuna 1-2 Granada

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    Youssef El-Arabi and Hassan Yebda scored first-half goals as Granada won 2-1 at Osasuna on Sunday.

    Granada took the lead in the 38th minute, Youssef El-Arabi tapping in from Allan Nyom's cross. Yacine Brahimi set up the assist with an incisive pass on the right side of the box. The visitors doubled their advantage in first-half stoppage time as Hassan Yebda headed in Dani Benitez' cross.

    Francisco Puñal pulled one back for Osasuna in the 57th minute, finishing with a low shot after Granada failed to properly clear a cross. Eight minutes later, Granada's Piti missed a penalty.

    Shots: Osasuna 14-13 Granada

    Passes: Osasuna 76%-64% Granada

    Possession: Osasuna 64%-36% Granada

Rayo Vallecano 3-0 Elche

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    Elche’s return to the Spanish top flight following a 24-year absence was hardly a memorable one as they were handed a 3-0 defeat away to Rayo Vallecano on the outskirts of Madrid.

    The hosts scored twice in the final five minutes of the first half to give Elche manager Fran Escriba something to think about at the break—Alberto Bueno firing a low, hard shot inside the left-hand corner of the goal to open the scoring in the 40th minute before setting up Alberto Perea for an impressive strike from distance shortly before the whistle.

    Bueno, who had a terrific night, then finished things off in the 74th minute with a strike from outside the area after picking up the ball from teammate Roberto Trashorras.

    Shots: Rayo Vallecano 11-8 Elche

    Passing: Rayo Vallecano 84%-70% Elche

    Possession: Rayo Vallecano 64%-36% Elche

Almeria 2-3 Villarreal

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    Villarreal turned a one-goal defeat into a one-goal victory with a pair of late goals to enter the win column on the occasion of their Primera Division return following a one-year absence.

    Rodri scored both goals for the hosts at Estadio de los Juegos Mediterraneos—calmly  finishing past Villarreal goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo in the 39th minute and then bulging the roof of the goal in the 76th after accepting the ball from Suso.

    By then the guests had pulled back into the match thanks to Sebastian Dubarbier’s own goal, and in the 84th minute Giovani dos Santos opened his Villarreal account from in close after receiving Javier Aquino’s accurate pass.

    The stage was set for a hero, and with only three minutes to play Jonathan Pereira picked up Dos Santos’ pass and beat ‘keeper Suarez Esteban to seal the three points for the Yellow Submarine.

    Shots: Almeria 15-14 Villarreal

    Passing: Almeria 82%-73% Villarreal

    Possession: Almeria 57%-43% Villarreal

Celta Vigo 2-2 Espanyol

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    We end our Week 1 tour of La Liga at Estadio de Balaidos, where on Monday Celta Vigo and Espanyol played to an entertaining 2-2 draw.

    Celta Vigo built up a two-goal advantage thanks to strikes on either side of the break—Alex Lopez running onto Michael Krohn-Dehli’s through-ball and finishing inside the far post to open the scoring in the 43rd minute and Charles heading Khrohn-Dehli’s cross past Espanyol goalkeeper Francisco Casilla less than two minutes after the restart.

    But it took the visitors only six minutes to pull themselves back into the match, and they did so resoundingly through Victor Sanchez’ effort from just outside the area.

    Thievy Bifouma scored what proved to be the equalizer with a quarter-hour remaining on the clock when he ran onto a Javi Lopez ball and finished well past Yoel Rodriguez Oterino.

    Shots: Celta Vigo 15-6 Espanyol

    Passing: Celta Vigo 78%-71% Espanyol

    Possession: Celta Vigo 57%-43% Espanyol