La Liga Match Day 1 Review – Highlights, Headlines & Analysis

La Liga 2018-2019 kicked off on Friday night with a rather drab 0-0 draw between Girona and Real Valladolid. Things quickly improved though in the unlikely form of a shock Levante win at the Benito Villamarin on a weekend of firsts in La Liga with VAR in use for the first time while minnows Huesca made their top flight debuts with a winning start at Eibar. Read on for analysis, match highlights and headlines from Match Day 1.

Opening Weekend Results & Highlights

Friday

Girona 0-0 Real ValladolidReal Betis 0-3 Levante

Saturday

Celta Vigo 1-1 EspanyolVillarreal 1-2 Real SociedadBarcelona 3-0 Alaves

Sunday

Eibar 1-2 HuescaRayo Vallecano 1-4 SevillaReal Madrid 2-0 Getafe

Monday

Valencia 1-1 Atletico MadridAthletic Bilbao 2-1 Leganes

Levante’s counter-attacking masterclass

Real Betis thrilled their fans and neutrals alike last season with some enterprising, attacking football that brought plenty of high-scoring games and a 6th place finish for the Seville club. A busy summer and new recruits such as William Carvalho and Takashi Inui has even brought some talk of a possible top four push but there was a major reality check for Betis on Friday night.

In many respects they did everything they usually do well. They dominated possession with a passing accuracy of 91%, second only to Real Madrid on the opening weekend. However they come up against a team who were ready for that and had a clear plan to negate it. Levante sat deep and soaked up the pressure for most of the game but were at times devastating on the break with José Luis Morales countering brilliantly for the Valencia club’s second goal before adding a third in stoppage time to stun the Benito Villamarin.

Read more: La Liga 2018/19 season preview

Huesca win battle of the miracle clubs

It would have been impossible to imagine, even five years ago, that Eibar vs Huesca would one day be a top flight fixture but the two faced off at the Ipurua on Sunday in one of the most unlikely match-ups in La Liga history. Eibar’s incredible rise is now pretty well documented as they head into their fifth top flight season despite playing their football in a tiny stadium in a town of just 27,000 residents. Huesca is marginally bigger at 52,000 but it’s less of a football area with Zaragoza the only club of any real size in the region of Aragon.

SD Huesca had never even played at a level of higher than the regionalised third tier until 2008 but on Sunday they made their top flight debuts and in the battle of the underdogs, there was a fittingly romantic outcome. Two goals from Álex Gallar gave Huesca a 2-1 win, a dream start for them and their inexperienced new coach Leo Franco.

Comfy Wins for Barca & Real

With fairly kind opening day fixtures, it was no surprise to see Barcelona and Real Madrid get off to winning starts and we still aren’t much the wiser as to how this title race may shape up. Barca were frustrated for more than an hour by Alaves before Leo Messi did what Leo Messi does and scored two of his team’s goals in a comfortable 3-0 win over an Alaves side that rarely threatened.

Real Madrid were up against a Getafe side that has strengthened significantly this summer but opted against rocking the boat too much on match-day one with veteran Jorge Molina still leading the line in a 4-5-1. The Real Madrid line-up was more interesting. Keylor Navas retains the number one jersey for now with Thibaut Courtois on the bench alongside Raphaël Varane and Luka Modric, with all three having played a part in the World Cup until the final weekend. Lopetegui’s decision to pick his former Spain U21 players Dani Ceballos, Isco and Marco Asensio in the same team was a bold move but it paid off as Los Blancos won 2-0 with Dani Carvajal and Garteth Bale on target.

All-square in Monday Showdown at the Mestalla

The biggest game on match-day one was saved until Monday as two of Spain’s Champions League participants met at the Mestalla. It promises to be a big season for both Atletico Madrid and Valencia, who will both be looking to put pressure on the so-called ‘big two’, a term that may become redundant should Atleti do what many are tipping them to do and win La Liga this season.

They both showed their qualities in a competitive game in front of a passionate Mestalla crowd but ultimately the points were shared in what was perhaps a fair reflection of the game. Angel Correa gave Atleti a 1st Half lead having been expertly put through by Antoine Griezmann but Rodrigo got the better of Diego Godin to level things up after the break and both teams will most likely see it as a point gained rather than two dropped, even though they are already playing catch-up to Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Read more: Can Atleti win La Liga?

The Weekend in Numbers

  • A crowd of 48,446 was Real Madrid’s lowest at home in La Liga since May 2009, just before Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer to the Bernabeu.
  • Andre Silva netted 3 times for Sevilla, one more goal than he managed in all of last season in Serie A with Milan.
  • Iker Muniain’s 93rd minute winner for Athletic provided a dramatic conclusion to Match Day 1.
  • Levante won 3-0 at Real Betis despite having just 23% possession.
  • Huesca ended a 58 year wait for top flight football by winning their first ever game in La Liga.

 


Next weekend sees Real Madrid travel to Girona, where they suffered a shock defeat last term. There’s also a derby clash for Atleti while top four hopefuls Sevilla and Villarreal face off at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. Keep tabs on our match previews for more analysis ahead of match-day two.


 

Spanish football writer
About Mark Sochon 1703 Articles
Mark is a freelance writer based in Madrid, writing mostly about Spanish football. His work has been published by the likes of Guardian Sport & World Soccer. Contact: marksochon (at) hotmail.co.uk

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