La Review: La Liga returns with a whimper not a wham

Tim Stannard on an underwhelming start to the new season...

Well, that was a let-down. Four scoreless draws. Three 1-0 wins. And just one game managing three goals. That was the match which ended up as a 2-1 Celta Vigo win over Levante to plonk the Galicians at the top of the table with Granada and Eibar left to play. Should one of these teams manage a 2-0 blowout on Monday, then the top spot will be theirs after the first round of a league that is still very much on its holidays.

Shame (clang). Shame (clang). Shame (clang)

In the space of just a weekend, Spanish top-flight football conspired to remove a good 50% of LLL’s lame and largely inaccurate jibes at the flaccid, non-scoring nature of French and Italian football compared to the swashbuckling sexiness of La Liga. The blog is now following behind a stripped-down league clanging its bell of shame.

The Opening Round of Doom got underway on Friday. Málaga and Sevilla – the latter being especially guilty – pretty much killed off the excitement of the glorious return of La Primera by the time the interval came along in a clash that remained goalless, despite Málaga having fair grievances over an effort ruled out for offside.

At least Espanyol managed an effort against Getafe with Salva Sevilla scoring a direct free-kick in a 1-0 win.

Deportivo and Real Sociedad received the baton of boredom in a goalless draw which had Marca grumbling over both sides repeating the sins of last season; Depor without a goalscorer in the side and La Real playing it far too safe on the road. The need for urgent repair to one of the nets at the start of the second half was the most thrilling aspect of the game.

Atlético Madrid grabbed a win but couldn’t manage a ‘proper’ goal, with Antoine Griezmann blasting home a direct free-kick.

Even Rayo and Valencia caught the disease with a goalless draw, two teams that are normally immensely busy at both ends like a cruise ship passenger feasting on raw chicken.

Barcelona only managed the single goal against Athletic, while Real Madrid delivered the round’s fourth wipeout of the weekend against Sporting. Levante and Celta Vigo deserve medals for doubling the number of goals of the round at that point with three (one free-kick and an own goal in the tally).

Betis and Villarreal, in the last match of Sunday, also rallied to the cause with a 1-1 draw, although that chunky goodness was dented a tad with Roberto Soldado scoring on his return to La Liga with the Yellow Submarine. That really was taking the biscuit too far.

It really is lovely to see Betis back. Very lovely

The Andalusians should be given a pass every season awarding the team immunity from relegation. La Primera is such a bleak place without the club and its drunken loon supporters. Now if Joaquín can be coaxed back from Fiorentina this week, or Michu brought to Spain, LLL would be a very happy bunny.

Welcome to Real Madrid, Rafa!

A familiar expression appeared on Rafa Benitez's face in the dying seconds of the goalless draw against Sporting. Rather than contemplating how a fairly attacking line-up failed to score in Gijón, the Real Madrid boss was thinking: “I’m as popular as sub-standard ham in the papers, tomorrow.”

Indeed, shortly after the match finished, Marca was running a story that in five of the nine matches where Benítez has been at the helm, the team has failed to find the back of the net.

Unfortunately for Rafa, a reputation for liking to be tight at the back at the expense of the attack – balance, the Spaniard would call it – will colour every result at the start of the season. “Something is going on, and this is something that Benítez needs to admit,” scorns AS editor Alfredo Relaño.

LLL is going to keep giving Benítez the benefit of the doubt just to be contrary. Playing Jesé, Isco, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric is hardly Capello-esque double-pivotness.

At least four of that mob should have scored. Plus, the Isco experiment is failing badly. Got to go. The beard looks like the playmaker is wearing a disguise or going to a party dressed as a late Jim Morrison.

Barcelona get into the groove

Channelling Madonna, here, to show that pre-season is not worth a hill of beans. Even Super Cups. Sevilla concede 11 in two friendlies and keep a clean sheet on Friday. Barcelona get ripped apart 4-0 in San Mamés a week ago, but come away with a one-goal victory on Sunday when it truly mattered. “We did what we had to in every aspect of the pitch, and we are going home happy,” reported Luis Enrique after a win stemming from a true belter from Luis Suárez. Leo Messi is still troubled by the world of penalty taking, though, with the Argentine missing his 14th spot-kick for Barcelona.

Same old for Atlético Madrid

It’s as if last season never ended for the Rojiblancos. A 1-0 win. Just enough done. Welcome back Atlético.

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