| Barcelona defender Fernando Navarro (left) and Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Correa fight for the ball during a Spanish League match at the Nou Camp Monday. The match ended in a 2-2 draw
Madrid: Valencia opened the defence of their title with an impressive 2-0 win at Real Mallorca in the Spanish first division on Sunday.
Rafael Benitez’s side bounced back after a disappointing 0-4 aggregate defeat by Deportivo la Coruna in the Spanish Supercup, with goals from Gonzalo de los Santos and Ruben Baraja to seal a confident win against the islanders.
Deportivo were brought back down to earth after they were dealt a comprehensive 2-4 home defeat by a sparkling Real Betis inspired by fine performances from new signings Marcos Assuncao and Alfonso.
Alfonso’s old club Barcelona were unfortunate to be held to a 2-2 draw at the Nou Camp by a battling Atletico Madrid, who return to the top flight after two seasons in the second division.
Barcelona took an early lead through Luis Enrique when he poked home at the far post after some slack Atletico defending, but the visitors pulled level on the stroke of half-time when defender Jorge Otero’s cross-shot swerved into the goal.
Enrique claimed a brilliantly-worked second 10 minutes after the break when he slotted home after exchanging passes with Javier Saviola, but Atletico grabbed a point four minutes from time when substitute Fernando Correa slammed in at the far post.
Fine individual performances came from Malaga’s Kizito Musampa and Real Sociedad’s Turkish international Nihat Kahveci.
Musampa scored a hattrick to help his side come from two goals behind to claim a 3-2 win over newly promoted Recreativo Huelva and Kahveci masterminded a 4-2 over Athletic Bilbao in the Basque Derby.
Valencia were given an early boost by De los Santos’ early strike. The Uruguayan midfielder drilled home from the edge of the area after good work by Pablo Aimar and Francisco Rufete.
Mallorca had several clear chances to level, but lost their nerve in front of goal with Alvaro Novo and new signing Walter Pandiani sending point-blank headers wide of the mark.
Valencia then took complete control after the break with Baraja adding a superbly taken second on 57 minutes. Controlling a sweeping pass with his chest the Spanish international then cracked home a volley that fizzed past goalkeeper Leo Franco into the top corner.
Betis gave the most impressive display of the day as they dismantled Deportivo at the Riazor. Former Roma midfielder Assuncao made an outstanding debut scoring with a rocketing first-time shot on 20 minutes and hit the woodwork twice more during the game.
Striker Alfonso weighed in with a penalty and Arzu and Joaquin hit the others.
Inter Milan began life without Ronaldo with a 0-1 defeat to AC Milan in a charity friendly played at the San Siro Stadium on Sunday, adds a report from Milan.
Ronaldo’s replacement, Argentine Hernan Crespo, drafted in from Rome club Lazio shortly before Saturday’s transfer deadline, was unveiled to the crowd before the game.
Crespo walked out to greet the fans alongside his former Lazio teammate Alessandro Nesta, who also moved north on Saturday but to rivals AC Milan.
The match was a benefit game for the victims of last year’s plane crash at Milan’s Linate airport that killed 118 people.
Milan’s Danish striker Jon Dahl Tomasson handed victory to Carlo Ancelotti’s side with a 68th-minute header.
Auxerre hold Marseille
In Marseille, AJ Auxerre held Olympique Marseille in a hard-fought 0-0 draw at the Stade Velodrome on Sunday to extend their unbeaten league run to four games.
Auxerre remain second in the French first division with 10 points from five games, level with newly-promoted Nice who have a better goal difference.
Marseille played a high-pressure game to master the attacking skills of Auxerre’s young international strikers Djibril Cisse and Olivier Kapo.
They enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but could not find their way through a sturdy Auxerre defence.
Their best opportunity came on 21 minutes when Cyril Chapuis volleyed the ball against the bar from close range before having a goal disallowed for off-side six minutes later.
Auxerre defender Philippe Mexes also stopped a close-range shot from Ibrahima Bakayoko on the line in the 62nd.
The visitors didn’t have a single clear opportunity to score and will be delighted with the result.
On Saturday, Nice also fought tooth and nail to snatch a 1-1 draw from Paris St Germain at the Parc des Princes.
RC Lens beat Monaco 1-0 at home to move into third place on nine points, level with PSG but with a better goal difference.
Champions Olympique Lyon slipped to fifth after losing 1-2 at Sochaux, their first defeat since winning the title. They have eight points and are above En Avant Guingamp, Girondins Bordeaux, Sochaux and Marseille on goal difference.
In Berlin, Hertha Berlin made an embarrassing first-round exit from the German Cup by losing on penalties to amateurs Holstein Kiel on Sunday.
The capital’s club lost 0-3 in the shoot-out after managing only a 1-1 draw with opponents playing in the regional league —equivalent to third division.
All the other 17 Bundesliga clubs survived the first round over the weekend but several looked far from impressive, notably Bayer Leverkusen, who went through with a 1-0 victory over amateurs Rot-Weiss Essen.
The only upset came from Kiel, where defender Matthias Rose delighted the 9,000 fans packing the northerners’ tiny stadium by opening the scoring with a header just before the break.
Striker and captain Michael Preetz equalised for the visitors with a headed goal on 53 minutes but Hertha then struggled until Holstein goalkeeper Manuel Greil sealed victory for the home side by saving two penalties while another rattled his crossbar.
TSV 1860 Munich used four goals from striker Martin Max to hammer Alemannia Aachen’s amateur side 7-0 while promoted Arminia Bielefeld also cruised through by crushing Saarbruecken’s B team 5-0.
Kaiserslautern advanced comfortably as well with a 5-0 thrashing of fifth division Uhlenhorster SC Paloma.
Leverkusen scored a first-half goal via Brazil defender Lucio for a dull 1-0 win over Essen.