Atletico Madrid, Valencia open Spanish season with draw
MADRID — Atletico Madrid and Valencia couldn’t manage more than a 1-1 draw in the opening match of the season for potential contenders for the Spanish league title on Monday.
Both teams debuted new signings and came boosted by great seasons a year ago, but it was an even match from the start at Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium, with neither finding an edge to earn the victory.
The hosts came closer to winning and squandered a few great chances in the final minutes.
Angel Correa gave Atletico the lead in the 25th minute with a shot from close range after a great set up by Antoine Griezmann, who cleared a few defenders before sending a perfect ball to the forward behind the defense. Correa had only goalkeeper Neto to beat and easily found the corner.
Atletico held on for the rest of the first half but Valencia equalized shortly after halftime with a great goal by striker Rodrigo, who controlled the ball with his chest after a cross into the area and fired a left-footed shot into the top of the net.
“We can’t say it was unfair, but if we had won the match it wouldn’t be a crazy result,” Rodrigo said. “We faced a great rival and showed that we are playing on a high level. That’s what we want to keep doing the whole season.”
Gabriel Paulista nearly scored again for Valencia less than 10 minutes after Rodrigo’s goal, but his header off a corner struck the post. Daniel Wass had a chance on a breakaway with a few minutes left, but his shot was saved by Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak. Kevin Gameiro also missed a clear opportunity just before the final whistle.
“We lacked organization in the end and I didn’t like that,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. “But I’ll stick to what we did well. These teams are very similar and we had our chances to win the match.”
Atletico finished runner-up to Barcelona in the league last season, while Valencia was fourth and secured a Champions League berth. Atletico was coming off a victory over city rival Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.
Simeone started Monday’s match with one of the team’s top signings in the offseason, France forward Thomas Lemar, playing up front with Griezmann and Diego Costa. Other recently arrived players began on the bench, including Gelson Martins, Nikola Kalinic and Rodri. Martins came in as a substitute in the second half, replacing Griezmann.
Wass, one of Valencia’s new signings, was in the starting lineup, while Gameiro, Denis Cheryshev and Michy Batshuayi began on the bench. Gameiro and Batshuayi entered in the second half.
Defending champion Barcelona made its league debut on Saturday with a 3-0 win against Alaves with a pair of goals by Lionel Messi at Camp Nou Stadium.
Real Madrid opened with a 2-0 win over Getafe with Gareth Bale scoring and setting up Dani Carvajal’s goal at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
In the match that closed out the first round, Athletic Bilbao defeated Leganes 2-1 at home thanks to an injury-time winner by Iker Muniain.