First division, day 1
Valencia started their defence of the league title with a 2-1 win over neighbours Villarreal. Ranieri's side went into a two goal lead in the first half thanks to two Vicente free kicks, Marchena heading the first past Reina and Baraja catching the defence napping to score from the second. Villarreal put up a good fight later on though, with Riquelme hitting the crossbar twice from free kicks, and new signing Diego Forlán got a goal back for them ten minutes from the end. (30.08.04)
Real Madrid and Barcelona are considered by many to be favourites for the league this year, and both started the new campaign with away wins. Real Madrid travelled to Mallorca without their new defensive signings Samuel and Woodgate, both of whom were injured, and as expected Michael Owen started the game on the bench. However an injury to Raúl midway through the first half enabled the England striker to make his debut, and he set up the only goal of the game for Ronaldo early in the second half.
Barcelona meanwhile proved that they are no longer dependent on Ronaldinho to win matches, running out 0-2 victors over Racing Santander despite the absence of their Brazilian star. Local keeper Aouate kept out the visiting forwards in the first half, but Giuly finally beat him after the break and Eto'o added a second from the penalty spot a few minutes later.
It was Zaragoza who headed the table though on the first day (pending Valencia's match against Villarreal on Monday), Víctor Muñoz's side following up their Super Cup victory with a 3-1 win over newcomers Getafe. The honour of scoring the visitors' first goal in the top flight fell to youngster José Antonio early on, but they fell victim to three dead ball kicks after that, Alvaro heading home free kicks from Galletti either side of half time and Savio getting one in between with a direct strike.
Elsewhere Sevilla got off to a good start with a 1-0 victory over Albacete, new boy Renato coming on at half time and scoring the only goal just three minutes later. The other two games ended in 1-1 draws, with Osasuna's Milosevic saving a point in their local derby with Athletic Bilbao after Etxeberría had put the visitors ahead, and Nihat doing likewise for Real Sociedad after Ian Harte had given newly promoted Levante the lead with a free kick. (29-08.04)
The new league season kicked off with three matches on Saturday night. Atlético Madrid were the only side to win, their 2-0 victory over Málaga a compensation for losing out to Villarreal in the Intertoto cup midweek. César Ferrando's team were well on top, and could have scored several times before Ibagaza's shot came back off the post and deflected back off unfortunate keeper Calatayud to put them ahead on the stroke of half time. Fernando Torres added a second just three minutes after the restart to wrap things up.
A controversial match in Montjuic, where Espanyol and Deportivo La Coruña shared the points in a 1-1 draw. The Catalans took the lead with a borderline penalty after Tamudo was brought down by Molina right on the edge of the area, the team captain converting the kick himself. But the hosts were left with ten men when De la Peña was sent off, presumably for insulting the referee, and then keeper Kameni was carried off with an injury. Deportivo took advantage of the extra man to equalise through Pandiani a few minutes from the end.
Numancia heralded their return to the top flight with a 1-1 draw against Betis in a crowded Pajaritos stadium. The Soria based side took the lead midway through the first half when Juanlu cut in past Melli to beat Prats from a wide angle, but Fernando headed the equaliser from a free kick on the stroke of half time. Neither side could make any further inroads on a hot evening, and both were happy to settle for a point in the end. (28.08.04)