Football, Premier League 2017-08-23 9:08 AM

Finally, after 89 long days in the wilderness, La Liga football has returned. Each of those days has brought with it a seemingly endless sludge of transfer gossip, speculation, hearsay and a hefty dose of absolute nonsense, and although there have been moments of drama and plenty of talking points, it is great to finally enjoy the feast of actual football having endured the fast of the close season.

And the opening weekend didn’t disappoint. There were plenty of moments of brilliance, controversy and some surprising results to help sate the hunger of the football-starved fan.
There’s no denying it has been a difficult summer for Barcelona, with the departure of Neymar and a modicum of success in the transfer market contributing to heavy criticism of the club’s board. An opening weekend home tie against Quique Setién’s revamped Real Betis side looked like a potentially tricky fixture, but they were ultimately comfortable in their 2-0 win amid an emotional atmosphere at Camp Nou in the wake of last week’s atrocities in Catalonia.
After the trials faced by Barça over the summer, it was crucial that new manager Ernesto Valverde got off to a good start to relieve some of the pressure on the club. Their victory over their Andalusian visitors has certainly helped in that regard, and the margin of victory could have been much greater had Lionel Messi’s shooting not been uncharacteristically wayward, with three of his shots hitting the woodwork.

Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo-less Real Madrid continued last season’s irresistible form into the new campaign with a 3-0 win over their traditional bogey team Deportivo at the Riazor. There were a couple of hairy moments for Zinedine Zidane’s all-conquering side, including a missed penalty, but they were ultimately comfortable in their victory. In this ever-changing world in which we live, it’s nice to know that some things remain refreshingly predictable; night follows day, the tides ebb and flow, Sergio Ramos gets sent off. The Madrid captain has now chalked up 23 red cards in his time in the capital, and now has the record for most La Liga dismissals with 18. Never change, Sergio.

The most surprising result of the weekend came at newly-promoted Girona as they hosted Atlético Madrid. The Catalan side were 2-0 up within 25 minutes thanks to ex-Middlesbrough man Cristhian Stuani, but Atleti managed to scrape a draw with two goals in the last 12 minutes. Their comeback came in spite of a comical sending-off for Antoine Griezmann at 2-0 down, as the Frenchman was booked for diving and then immediately shown a red card for calling the referee a cagón (essentially accusing the ref of sh*tting himself).

Elsewhere, the other promoted clubs also did well, as Segunda champions Levante beat Villarreal, and Getafe’s creditable draw at Athletic Bilbao would have been a win were it not for La Liga’s continued resistance against goal-line technology. New Valencia boss Marcelino got off to a winning start against Las Palmas, while last season’s fourth-placed side Sevilla could only manage a 1-1 draw at home to Espanyol. Leganés, Eibar and Real Sociedad also picked up the three points in their games against Alavés, Málaga and Celta de Vigo respectively.

But after everything that has happened in the past week, the actions of Barcelona defender Lucas Digne warrant a special mention. In the immediate aftermath of the atrocity in Barcelona, the Frenchman ran down to Las Ramblas to give water and first aid to the victims of the attack, and is refusing to give interviews as he doesn’t believe he should gain more praise and publicity just because he is a footballer. While he doesn’t deserve any more credit than the other members of the public who assisted, Digne’s actions show that footballers are human just like everyone else, even if now more than ever they seem so disconnected from ordinary people. They are so often deified and vilified by the press that it’s easy to forget that they suffer the same as you and I, and so it’s to his immense credit that he was able to feature for Barcelona this weekend after being involved in such a traumatic event.

Leave a Reply