Seven-Up for Barcelona As La Liga Returns: La Liga Roundup, Gameweek 1

Barcelona put seven past Levante, while Real Madrid recovered from a shaky start to beat Real Betis as the 2013/14 Primera Liga season got underway in Spain this past weekend. Villarreal celebrated their return to the top flight with a win, while Atletico Madrid also started with an impressive victory.

With new signing Neymar on the bench alongside new coach Tata Martino, it was business as usual at Camp Nou as Barcelona romped to a 7-0 win over a poor Levante side. Only three minutes had elapsed when Alexis Sanchez gave the Catalans the lead, with Lionel Messi making it two shortly after. A four-goal salvo in 22 minutes killed the contest as Dani Alves, Pedro Rodriguez, a Messi penalty and Xavi Hernandez made it 6-0 before half-time.

Neymar made his debut in a quiet second half that resembled a training exercise more than a competitive game, with Barca adding only once to their score, Pedro on target with his second with a quarter of an hour remaining.

Real Betis gave Real Madrid an early scare at the Bernabeu when Jorge Molina slotted past Diego Lopez after 13 minutes of Carlo Ancelotti’s first game in charge. Los Blancos recovered their composure to equalize through Karim Benzema on 25 minutes, but Betis looked like hanging on for a point until Isco, Madrid’s exciting star signing from Malaga, struck a cool winner four minutes from time.

Diego Costa opened the scoring at the Sanchez Pizjuan, putting Atletico Madrid ahead after 35 minutes, only for Diego Perotti to level for Sevilla two minutes later. It was an even contest until Diego Costa grabbed a second 10 minutes from time and Cebolla Rodriguez made sure of the points for Atleti in stoppage time.

Returning to La Liga after a season away, Villarreal came from behind to win at Almeria, who were also back in La Primera after a two-year absence. New signing Rodri gave Los Rojiblancos the lead shortly before the interval, but teammate Sebastian Dubarbier deflected past his own goalkeeper after the break to equalize for the Yellow Submarine.

In a game of defensive mishaps, Rodri restored Almeria’s lead, hitting his second with 15 minutes remaining, but the home side couldn’t hold on to their advantage. Giovani dos Santos leveled before Jonathan Pereira won the game for Villarreal with five minutes remaining.

Ricardo Costa scored the only goal of the game as Valencia overcame Malaga.  The visitors’ line-up was unrecognisable from that which took the Champions league by storm, new boss Bernd Schuster having been forced to sell players and replace them with younger, inexperienced ones. Ironically, it was one of last season’s Malaga heroes, goalkeeper Willy Caballero, who was at fault for Valencia’s goal.

Former Valencia coach Ernesto Valverde started his reign at Athletic Bilbao with a win as the Basques won 2-1 at Real Valladolid. Patrick Ebert canceled out Markel Susaeta’s opener, but Iker Muniain sealed the points soon after half-time. Fellow northerners Osasuna are many people’s tip for the drop this season and they began with a defeat at home to Granada. Youssef El Arabi and Hassan Yebda gave El Grana a half-time lead and although a Francisco Punal strike gave Osasuna some hope, Granada hung on for the points.

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