Spain capital

Barca’s new look frustrated with Rayo in season opener

MADRID, Spain, August 14Barcelona were held 0-0 by Rayo Vallecano in their La Liga season opener and had captain Sergio Busquets sent off late.

The Catalans managed 21 shots on goal and the majority of possession at Camp Nou but were unable to break the deadlock.

Barca boss Xavi has started late-season signings, including defender Andreas Christensen, winger Raphinha and striker Robert Lewandowski, who were only able to feature after being signed into the league on Friday night .

The five-time Champions League winners had to comply with La Liga’s strict financial controls before they could confirm the likes of former Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski in their squad ahead of the new campaign.

“We could have won, but now we have to correct our mistakes and think about Real Sociedad next weekend,” said Barcelona defender Eric Garcia.

“We wanted to start the season on the right foot and with a win, but we knew Rayo gave us a lot of problems last year. They were good defensively tonight.

The hosts dominated the first half hour as Lewandowski was denied a goal on his competitive debut.

The Polish striker was ruled offside following a pass from Ousmane Dembele before his tricky chipped finish was called off.

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As rain poured down at the Camp Nou in temperatures of 26 degrees Celsius (79 degrees Fahrenheit), Pedri nearly broke the deadlock with 10 minutes of half-time remaining, but his curling effort flew over the post.

Despite being in control in the first half, Marc ter Stegen ensured the teams stayed level at the break with a fine save to stop Rayo’s Alvaro Garcia in injury time.

Barca continued their attack on the Rayo defense but couldn’t beat goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski, who was involved in two heavy collisions on his line in the first 10 minutes of the second half.

With half an hour to play, Xavi brought in Frenkie de Jong for Gavi despite the Dutch midfielder being linked with leaving Catalonia to ease the club’s debt, which forced Lionel Messi to leave. 12 months ago.

– Falcao gets closer –

Robert Lewandowski (C) battles with Rayo Vallecano goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski in the draw © AFP / Paul BARRENA

Rayo de Xavi’s counterpart Andoni Iraola also made changes in the final 30 minutes, including giving experienced Colombian striker Radamel Falcao his competitive debut.

With nine minutes remaining, De Jong combined with Lewandowski but the 33-year-old’s shot grazed the post.

Seven minutes later, another Barca summer signing was denied a goal as midfielder Franck Kessie, arriving from AC Milan, was offside before beating Dimitrievski.

Xavi’s side finished the game with 10 men as club skipper Busquets was shown a red card for an elbow on Falcao in the fourth of eight minutes of added time.

Less than 60 seconds later, Falcao thought he had scored the winner and secured Rayo’s third successive victory over the Catalans, but was ruled offside and the visitors held on to the point.

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Earlier, 21-year-old winger Alex Baena netted twice in his eighth La Liga appearance as Villarreal beat Real Valladolid 3-0.

Striker Joselu netted a point for Espanyol at Celta Viga with a 97th-minute winner to draw 2-2 after veteran Galicians striker Iago Aspas netted his side’s first goal from a season for a third consecutive campaign.

On Sunday, champions Real Madrid travel to promoted Almeria while on Monday Atletico Madrid head south to take on Getafe.

On Friday, Osasuna stunned Sevilla’s Champions League qualifier 2-1 in the campaign opener.