MADRID (Reuters): Barcelona and Atletico Madrid were both made to work hard for narrow 1-0 victories over newly-promoted duo Real Valladolid and Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.
Ernesto Valverde’s side were second-best for large parts of their visit to the Jose Zorilla.
However, a second half-strike from Ousmane Dembele ultimately proved the difference.
Valladolid thought they had equalised in injury time, but Keko’s header was ruled out for offside with the help of VAR, and Valverde admitted Barça were up against it throughout.
“We had a couple of chances with Luis Suarez and Malcom, but we were on the back foot and they got on top of us. It was tough to stay upright on that pitch, and they created danger and we suffered throughout,” he said.
The reigning La Liga champions were furious at the state of the surface in Valladolid, which started to cut up during the pre-game warm-ups, and Valverde called on the league to act.
“I’ve not seen anything like this for a long time” he said of the playing conditions. “We were worried because we didn’t want anyone to get injured running on it. We’ve got these grand ideas about playing in America but we need to look closer to home and make sure pitches are playable here first.”
Barça, who won their first seven games in the league last season and did not lose until the penultimate match of the campaign, maintain their 100% record, while Valladolid have one point from two outings.
Atletico, meanwhile, endured no such hardship with the state of the grass in their first home game of the season at the Wanda Metropolitano.
They were more frustrated by resilient local rivals Rayo Vallecano until Antoine Griezmann scored a decisive winner.
“We didn’t start well and took time to find our play,” Coach Diego Simeone said.
“Rayo played well. We couldn’t create in the first half, and once we scored, we couldn’t counter and press as we wanted to, and you have to give them credit for that. They played well towards the end and we didn’t.”
Goalkeeper Jan Oblak was forced into action later on, producing a stunning save from Sergio Moreno at the death to ensure the Europa League winners a first La Liga victory of the season following their opening day draw away at Valencia.
Rayo remain without a point after two defeats in two games.
Earlier on Saturday, Alaves and Betis played out a goal-less draw to earn their first points of the campaign.