Barcelona: There was an inescapable sense of deja-vu when Sergio Ramos scored from the spot to give a rusty Real Madrid a 3-2 victory over Real Betis after they were awarded a fiercely contested late penalty.
Having spent most of their run to last season’s title brushing off accusations of receiving favourable decisions courtesy of VAR, Zinedine Zidane’s side were once again in the spotlight after three big calls went their way.
Betis coach Manuel Pellegrini lost his cool in the post-match news conference and risks a touchline ban after declaring his team could not compete against Madrid when they had VAR on their side.
Former Barcelona player Carles Puyol, a La Liga ambassador, could also not contain his anger, making a series of sarcastic posts on social media and saying Barca would have their work cut out trying to beat Madrid to the title with such decisions going their way.
JOAO FELIX PROMISES MORE
After a first campaign in which he largely failed to live up to his 126-million-euro transfer fee, Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix delivered a superb first game of the season in his side’s 6-1 thrashing of Granada, showing why his club had invested so much in him.
Felix’s poor debut season was underlined by the fact he was left out of Atleti’s starting 11 in their Champions League quarter-final defeat to RB Leipzig, but if he continues to play as he did on Sunday, he will be the team’s undisputed leader.
The Portuguese forward, 20, dragged Granada’s defence all over the place with his dribbling, earning a penalty in the first half before scoring a tremendous solo goal in the second.
His incisive passing was equally impressive, such as when he picked out Angel Correa for the second goal, and should ease Atletico’s long-running problems of unlocking stubborn defences.
While Luis Suarez ended up grabbing the headlines by scoring twice on his debut, Atletico will be even more encouraged by the form of the player they have trusted to lead them into the future.
CHANGE BODES WELL FOR BARCA
There had been a lot of talk about the 4-2-3-1 shape new Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman had been working on in pre-season and the formation he has designed could hardly have had a better first outing as the Catalans dominated Villarreal 4-0.
The Dutchman deployed Lionel Messi in the ‘false nine’ role the Argentinean had perfected a decade ago, with Ansu Fati on the left wing and Antoine Griezmann on the right, with a re-born Philippe Coutinho as an attacking midfielder knitting together the attacks.
Behind the front four, Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong provided a solid base that saw Barca swarm all over Unai Emery’s side and move the ball with speed and purpose, a welcome contrast to the ponderous, slow football they had played for much of last season.