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Barcelona cruise to 3-0 win against Santander

Madrid: Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and
David Villa scored as Barcelona opened its Spanish league
campaign with a comfortable 3-0 win at Racing Santander, while
Real Madrid was held to a 0-0 draw by Mallorca in Jose
Mourinho`s first game as a Liga coach.

After just four minutes at Santander`s Sardinero Stadium,
Messi gathered Iniesta`s through pass and raced into the area
before chipping past goalkeeper Antonio Rodriguez yesterday.

Iniesta also lobbed Rodriguez with a perfectly placed
first-time shot in the 33rd, before Villa scored his first
league goal for Barcelona, heading in unmarked from Daniel
Alves`s cross in the 63rd.

"This team was already great and it has won everything,
so what I wanted to do was settle in as soon as possible at
the beginning," said Villa, who moved from Valencia earlier
this summer for a fee of euro40 million (USD 51 million).

Mourinho said his Madrid side had not played at the kind
of level he hopes it can reach, although he was pleased his
players made opportunities and did not concede.

"Among the positives I take from this game are the
enormous number of chances that we created, mainly in the
second half....We played well enough to win, we had five or
six really big chances," he said.

Also Sunday, Pablo Osvaldo scored twice as Espanyol beat
Getafe 3-1, Real Sociedad beat Villarreal 1-0, Deportivo La
Coruna drew 0-0 with Zaragoza and Osasuna was held 0-0 by
Almeria.

Gerard Pique partnered Eric Abidal in central defense for
Barcelona, as injured captain Carles Puyol was rested.

The team also had a different look up front. After Zlatan
Ibrahimovic`s move to AC Milan was secured on Saturday, Villa
joined Messi and Iniesta in attack.

New arrival Villa fitted smoothly into the Barca line-up
and nearly scored in the 19th when Messi fed him a long ball
into the area, although Rodriguez beat him to the ball.

Messi was involved again in the 29th as he dribbled into
the area before his shot was deflected wide. Villa celebrated
what he thought was a goal just before halftime although he
was ruled offside. However, while Barcelona dominated
possession, Santander created a handful of chances.

The hosts had a free kick in the 12th after an
uncharacteristic late challenge by Pique and Kennedy
Bakircioglu followed up with a shot that tested goalkeeper
Victor Valdes.

Santander`s Francisco "Francis" Perez won a penalty in
the 35th, going down in the area under a light challenge by
Maxwell. However, Valdes stretched to his right to parry
Mohamed Tchite`s spot kick.

Valdes ensured a clean sheet again when he stopped Manuel
Arana`s close-range shot 10 minutes from full time. Messi was
the league`s top scorer last season and again looked
threatening.

In the 69th he just shot wide after Villa set him up with
a backheel.

Playmaker Xavi Hernandez was replaced by Pedro Rodriguez
at half time due to an injury and Villa came off in the 78th
to be replaced by Bojan Krkic. New signing Adriano Correia
came on for Iniesta.

Ahead of Madrid`s game at Mallorca`s Ono Estadi, Mourinho
said he felt no pressure to give the club`s higher profile
players preference. With Kaka injured, he left star signing
Mesut Oezil on the bench and deployed new teenage arrival
Sergio Canales behind striker Gonzalo Higuain.

Madrid started brightly and created a chance in the ninth
minute as Ronaldo burst into the area from the wing and fed
Higuain, who ran out of space to shoot.

Ronaldo made another chance when he cut in from the left,
before firing a long shot straight at goalkeeper Dudu Aouate.

Higuain was unlucky not to score in the 26th minute, when
defender Ruben Gonzalez appeared to clip his leg, tripping the
Argentina striker as he ran onto a long pass with only the
`keeper to beat.

Though Madrid enjoyed more possession, it lacked fluency
and the game became increasingly physical.

Mallorca started to apply pressure, at times showing the
kind of flair associated with its own new coach, Michael
Laudrup. Gonzalo Castro fired a left-footed shot just wide of
the right post shortly before the break and after halftime the
Madrid defense was caught off-guard as Victor Casadesus sent a
powerful header over the bar.

With the game drifting, Mourinho introduced Oezil and
Karim Benzema on the hour, replacing Canales and Angel Di
Maria. The change nearly paid off immediately when Higuain
brushed off a challenge and charged into the penalty area,
before Aouate dived at his feet to steal the ball.

As the clock ticked down, Madrid brought on another new
signing, Sami Khedira, for Alvaro Arbeloa. Ronaldo broke
through again and although Higuain was in a good scoring
position, the Portugal striker instead attempted a shot that
went wide. Aouate was outstanding as he kept Madrid at bay for
the final minutes.

"We know that in defense if we don`t give the other team
chances then we`ll make chances ourselves," said Madrid
goalkeeper Iker Casillas. "There are things that need
improving, but I like this team."

At Espanyol`s Lluis Companys Olympic Stadium, the
unmarked Osvaldo swept the ball into the net in the 33rd from
Jose Maria Callejon`s pass and added his second in the 55th,
pouncing on a loose ball after Getafe`s defense failed to
clear. An own goal by defender Ernesto Galan in the 63rd cut
the deficit before Jesus Datolo scored Espanyol`s third in
injury time.

Bureau Report

From Zee News

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