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Soccer: Barca play first game without Messi; Zizou's son sees red

August 16, 2021 09:11 IST
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FC Barcelona's Martin Braithwaite celebrates with teammates after scoring their side's second goal against Real Sociedad in their La Liga match at Camp Nou in Barcelona on Sunday

IMAGE: FC Barcelona's Martin Braithwaite celebrates with teammates after scoring their side's second goal against Real Sociedad in their La Liga match at Camp Nou in Barcelona on Sunday. Photograph: Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Barcelona began the post-Lionel Messi era with an entertaining 4-2 home win over Real Sociedad in their first game of the LaLiga season on Sunday.

A header from Gerard Pique gave the Catalans the lead in the 19th minute to the delight of 20,000 fans who returned to the Camp Nou for the first time in 17 months, and Martin Braithwaite struck either side of halftime to extend their advantage.

Sociedad looked to be out of the game but substitute Julen Lobete pulled them back into contention in the 82nd minute and forward Mikel Oyarzabal scored a stunning free kick moments later to set Barcelona nerves jangling.

 

Sergi Roberto struck in added time for the hosts, however, to make sure of the points in Barca's first match without all-time top scorer Messi, who joined Paris St Germain last week after 21 years with the Spanish club.

"We made things complicated for ourselves but we played a great game," said Pique.

"We controlled it for 80 minutes and although we were on the edge after their free kick, we got the fourth goal. The new players adapted well and the fans were excited about the football we played."

Barca fans chanted Messi's name at kick off while a section of supporters also booed in protest against president Joan Laporta, who had vowed to keep the Argentine at the club when he was elected in March.

Just under 30,000 tickets were made available for the game at the 99,000-capacity Camp Nou due to coronavirus restrictions but only 20,000 fans registered interest in attending, perhaps a sign of a lack of excitement for the new season without Messi.

But Barca dominated for most of the game with some flowing football, suggesting they could still have a promising future without their most iconic player.

The fans were lifted off their feet when Pique connected with a free kick from debutant Memphis Depay to put Barca in front, a day after the club announced the defender had taken a pay cut to alleviate their financial problems so they could register the Dutchman and fellow new signing Eric Garcia.

"I grew up here, I've played almost all my life here and it was a gesture I had to make and I've been speaking to the other captains and they're going to do the same too," added Pique.

Braithwaite headed home a sumptuous cross from Frenkie de Jong at the end of the first half to put Barca further at ease and the Denmark forward struck again in the second half, lashing home a loose ball after Jordi Alba's cross had been parried by visiting keeper Alex Remiro.

Barca then dropped their intensity and out of nowhere Sociedad stormed back into the game with two goals in three minutes to silence the cavernous stadium.

Pique made a gesture for the fans to liven up and help the team over the line and his side killed the game off on the counter-attack.

Antoine Griezmann led the charge through the middle before releasing Braithwaite, who crossed for Roberto to slide in at the back post and score their fourth.

Champions Atletico beat Celta in LaLiga opener as both sides see red

Atletico Madrid began their La Liga title defence with a 2-1 win away to Celta Vigo on Sunday thanks to two strikes from Argentine forward Angel Correa although the game ended with a mass brawl and a player from each side was sent off.

Luis Suarez began the game on the bench and Correa took full responsibility for the team's attacking duties, firing Atletico ahead midway through the first half after a marauding run from Thomas Lemar.

Celta levelled in the 59th minute with a penalty from captain Iago Aspas but Atletico soon restored their lead when Correa arrowed his finish into the bottom corner after a superb diagonal ball from Saul Niguez, who had been expected to leave the club during the close season.

The game ended in chaos as Celta captain Hugo Mallo and Atletico defender Mario Hermoso were shown red cards in added time for clashing off the ball while players all over the pitch could be seen confronting each other in the melee.

Atletico were fortunate not to concede an equaliser when Aspas rounded keeper Jan Oblak but the striker somehow missed the target with the goal gaping.

The champions were forced to defend deep in their own half until the 10th minute of added time to make an ideal start in their bid to successfully defend a league title for the first time since 1951.

Suarez, who struck 21 goals to help Atletico to a first title since 2014, came off the bench to replace Correa midway through the second half while Argentine midfielder Rodrigo de Paul also came on to make his debut following a 35-million-euro ($41-million) move from Udinese.

"We played really well, controlling the first half and causing lots of problems to a side that plays very good football," said Atletico coach Diego Simeone.

"The penalty gave the game a different feel but we responded very well with a superb goal. We played at a very high pace and I'm very happy about that."

Celta forward Aspas felt his side deserved more and agonised over his late miss.

"I had the draw in my grasp and it's a chance I can't afford to miss," he said.

"The truth is I leave feeling very angry because we should have got at least a point and I missed a chance like that."

Lamela hits double in dream Sevilla debut while Zidane sees red

Rayo Vallecano's Luca Zidane is shown a red card and sent off by referee Isidro Diaz de Mera Escuderos as teammate Alejandro Catena looks on during the La Liga match against Sevilla FC at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Seville on Sunday

IMAGE: Rayo Vallecano's Luca Zidane is shown a red card and sent off by referee Isidro Diaz de Mera Escuderos as teammate Alejandro Catena looks on during the La Liga match against Sevilla FC at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Seville on Sunday. Photograph: Fran Santiago/Getty Images

Erik Lamela enjoyed an ideal debut with Sevilla as he scored twice in a 3-0 win at home to Rayo Vallecano in his new side's first game of the LaLiga season after visiting goalkeeper Luca Zidane was sent off early on.

Zidane, the son of former Real Madrid coach Zinedine, had a nightmarish return to the top flight when he was shown a red card in the 16th minute for wiping out Sevilla midfielder Oussama Idrissi as he was about to score.

Moroccan striker Youssef En-Nesyri beat substitute keeper Stole Dimitrievski from the spot to give Sevilla the lead and they always looked in control against Rayo, who won promotion back to LaLiga last season.

Lamela, who joined Sevilla from Tottenham Hotspur as part of the deal which saw Spanish forward Bryan Gil move the other way, came off the bench to make his debut right after halftime and needed less than 10 minutes to make an impact.

He pounced on chaos in the Rayo box to ram a loose ball towards goal and it ended up in the net with the help of a heavy deflection off a visiting defender.

The Argentine struck again in the 79th minute, getting into the box and sliding to the floor to connect with a low cross from En-Nesyri before embracing his new team mate and celebrating with the 15,000 fans who were back at the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium for the first time in 17 months.

Lamela now has double the amount of league goals in 45 minutes with Sevilla as he managed in the last campaign with Tottenham and as many as the season before.

COVID-hit Mainz upset Leipzig in season opener

Mainz 05, who have around a dozen players in COVID-19 quarantine, struck early to stun last season's Bundesliga runners-up RB Leipzig 1-0 on Sunday and spoil new coach Jesse Marsch's first league match in charge.

The game had been in doubt after several Mainz players and coaching staff tested positive for COVID-19 and 11 players and three staff were sent into isolation.

Mainz's Moussa Niakhate tapped in at the far post in the 13th minute, however, after a disastrous Leipzig attempt to clear the ball sent it into his path.

Lee Jae-sung also hit the woodwork for Mainz but Leipzig gradually took control and made their own chances for Christopher Nkunku and Angelino.

In a largely one-sided second half, Leipzig pushed Mainz back deep but struggled to create openings, although they did come close with Mohamed Simakan's double chance on the hour and Mukiele's shot.

"It wasn't how we were hoping to start the season," Leipzig coach Marsch, who succeeded Julian Nagelsmann, said.

"Mainz sat back and defended after their goal and fought for every ball. That didn't leave much space for us. It definitely wasn't our best game, but we will continue to work.

"In total not our best day. It is okay that when we have the first tough result we are still a work in progress," American Marsch added.

Champions Bayern Munich kicked off their season on Friday with a 1-1 draw at Borussia Moenchengladbach while fellow title contenders Borussia Dortmund crushed Eintracht Frankfurt 5-2 on Saturday.

Bordeaux fight back to hold Marseille to 2-2 draw

Girondins de Bordeaux fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Olympique de Marseille on Sunday after Angers made it two wins from two with a 3-0 victory over Olympique Lyonnais.

Bordeaux's clash at Marseille got off to a worrying start when visiting striker Samuel Kalu collapsed on the pitch in the early stages of the match at Stade Velodrome although the 23-year old Nigerian got up as medics rushed on.

He briefly resumed playing before being substituted in the 14th minute, clearly looking groggy.

Marseille took a 2-0 lead into the break with goals from Cengiz Under and a solo effort by Dimitri Payet before halftime substitute Timothee Tembele pulled one back and Remy Oudin, who replaced Kalu, levelled with a first-time shot in the 57th minute.

Marseille had central defender Leonardo Balerdi sent off in the 89th minute for a studs-up challenge shortly after the home team's winger Nemanja Radonjic had a goal ruled out for offside.

Earlier on Sunday, Angers went top of the table with an impressive 3-0 home win over 10-man Lyon, while goals from Randal Kolo Muani and Ludovic Blas gave Nantes a 2-0 victory against visiting Metz on Sunday.

Promoted Clermont Foot also made it two wins out of two as they beat Troyes 2-0 at home, Brest salvaged a last-gasp 1-1 draw against Rennes with a stoppage-time equaliser, while Reims and Montpellier shared the spoils in a thrilling 3-3 draw.

Angers were well worth their win over Lyon and could have inflicted a heavier defeat on the visitors, who had left back Maxwel Cornet sent off in the 65th minute after he was shown a second yellow card.

Sofiane Boufal fired Angers ahead in the 20th minute with a neat finish from a tight angle and the home side doubled their advantage in the 53rd through a Marcelo own goal as the defender stroked the ball past his goalkeeper Anthony Lopes.

Substitute Azzadine Ounahi, who joined Angers from third division side Avranches during the close-season, made it 3-0 with his first top-flight goal after rattling the woodwork from long range moments earlier.

The result lifted Angers into pole position on six points from two games, ahead of second-placed newcomers Clermont Foot and Paris St Germain in third on goal difference.

Clermont, who are competing in the top tier for the first time since they were founded in 1911, continued their dream start in Ligue 1 as a Mohamed Bayo brace sank Troyes, whose midfielder Issa Kabore was sent off in the first half.

Jeremy Le Douaron levelled for Brest in the dying moments after Sehrou Guirassy gave Rennes an 84th minute lead, while Reims held visiting Montpellier in a see-saw battle which produced five goals in the first half alone.

The home side fell behind to a Nicolas Cozza goal and then turned the tide thanks to a Moreto Cassama double before Andy Delort and Gaetan Laborde swung it back Montpellier's way. Ilan Kebbal equalised for Reims in the 83rd minute.

St Etienne twice led at Lens but had to settle for a 2-2 draw after Wahbi Khazri fired them ahead in the first minute, taking advantage of a catalogue of errors by the home side.

Denis Bouanga made it 2-1 to the visitors after Ignatius Ganago had equalised but Seko Fofana salvaged a point for Lens with a 78th-minute strike.

Bordeaux's Kalu fine after collapsing, says team mate

Girondins de Bordeaux striker Samuel Kalu is feeling fine after collapsing in the sixth minute of their Ligue 1 match at Olympique de Marseille on Sunday, his team mate Remy Oudin said.

Oudin replaced Kalu in the 14th minute after the 23-year-old Nigerian fell to the ground on a hot evening at the Stade Velodrome, with medics rushing on to the pitch with a stretcher to attend him.

Having been shielded by his team mates after he collapsed, Kalu was able to get up and walk off the pitch with their help while holding an ice pack against his head.

The striker, who also collapsed from severe dehydration during a Nigeria training session at the 2019 African Cup of Nations, resumed playing several moments later but appeared groggy and was eventually substituted.

"According to the doctor, it was just a dizzy spell," said Oudin, who netted Bordeaux's equaliser as they fought back from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw.

"He is to take more tests and we will know more tomorrow (Monday) during the day. It gave us a bit of a chill and it's still quite shocking.

"We inevitably thought about what happened with (Denmark midfielder Christian) Eriksen, the whole team and everyone was scared. We're happy for Kalu, everything is fine and that's the most important thing."

The stadium went silent during the incident, which brought back memories of Eriksen's collapse at Euro 2020 in June when he suffered a heart attack in the first half of Denmark's match against Finland in Copenhagen.

Eriksen's life was saved when CPR was administered to him on the pitch and his heart was re-started with a defibrillator before he was taken to hospital, where he recovered after undergoing heart surgery.

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