Unconvincing Atletico make winning La Liga start
MADRID: Atletico Madrid got their La Liga campaign up and running in less than convincing fashion when Antoine Griezmann’s deflected free kick secured an edgy 1-0 win at home to promoted Las Palmas on Saturday.
Valencia, who like Atletico are hoping to challenge heavyweights Barcelona and Real Madrid for the title, also failed to shine in their opening game of the season and were held to a 0-0 draw at Rayo Vallecano.
Griezmann’s strike clipped the Las Palmas wall on its way into the net in the 17th minute at the Calderon but Atletico struggled to create further chances and the visitors, back in Spain’s top flight for the first time in 13 years, made them sweat in the second half.
Las Palmas defender David Simon was left unmarked at the far post and headed against the crossbar and Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak had to make an excellent save when the ball ricocheted towards goal at a corner 18 minutes from time.
Colombia striker Jackson Martinez, making his La Liga debut after joining from Porto in the close season, had a quiet night before making way for Fernando Torres midway through the second period.
"We played a good first half and controlled the match," Atletico fullback Filipe Luis told Spanish television.
"But obviously the scoreline was precarious because if Las Palmas had scored it looked like it would have been difficult for us to get another," added the Brazil international, who has returned to Madrid after a year at English champions Chelsea.
"But we controlled the match at all times and were very solid in defence so I think it was a deserved victory.
"It’s always challenging in the opening game after a tough pre-season and we just need to keep improving."
Valencia, who play the second leg of their Champions League playoff at Monaco on Tuesday having won Wednesday’s first leg 3-1, appeared sluggish on a sultry night at Rayo's stadium in the Madrid suburbs.
Nuno's side were missing several key players, including captain Dani Parejo, due to suspensions carried over from last season and were lucky to come away with a point as Rayo dominated in the second half and squandered several openings.
Alvaro Negredo came close to snatching a win for the visitors in the 91st minute but his fierce shot was brilliantly saved by Rayo goalkeeper Tono.
Valencia will need to up their game if they are to hold off Monaco and secure a lucrative berth in the group stage of Europe's elite club competition.
Espanyol joined Atletico, champions in 2014, on three points at the top when they won 1-0 at home to Getafe, while David Moyes' Real Sociedad side were held to a 0-0 draw at Deportivo La Coruna.
Champions Barca begin their bid for a sixth La Liga title in eight years when they travel to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday (1630 GMT) before Real play at promoted Sporting Gijon (1830).