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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Aug, 26, 2007

La Liga: Barca held by ten-man Racing

MADRID, Aug 26 (Reuters) - A lethargic-looking Barcelona were held to a 0-0 draw by 10-man Racing Santander in their opening match of the season on Sunday. The Catalans, who spent over 65 million euros ($88 million) on new players including France striker Thierry Henry during the close season, were outplayed by their modest opponents who are one of the lowest spenders in the Primera Liga. Barca dominated possession but their sluggish passing and lack of spark up front meant that Racing had little problem holding them even after Polish debutant Ebi Smolarek was sent off midway through the second half. Villarreal, who ended last season on an eight match winning run, picked up where they left off with an emphatic 3-0 victory over regional rivals Valencia, who were reduced to nine men after red cards for striker David Villa and winger Joaquin. Danish international Jon Dahl Tomasson opened with a cool finish on 16 minutes, striker Giuseppe Rossi added a second from the penalty spot and Santi Cazorla wrapped up with a classy third. All three promoted sides got off to winning starts, Almeria trouncing Deportivo Coruna 3-0 in their first top flight game in 26 years, Valladolid edging a 1-0 win away to Espanyol and Real Murcia beating a much-fancied Real Zaragoza 2-1 on Saturday. Barca coach Frank Rijkaard left Henry on the bench at the Sardinero, preferring instead to stick with last season's strike force of Samuel Eto'o, Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho. But if the build-up to the match was dominated by talk of Barcelona's "Fantastic Four", the reality on the pitch was very different. STRONG START Racing started strongly and Barca had several scares in the opening minutes, midfielders Oscar Serrano and Aldo Duscher both denied by sharp saves from keeper Victor Valdes. Their best opportunity came midway through the first half when Gonzalo Colsa rifled an angled shot against the base of the post after the Barca defence were caught off guard once again. Barca's only chance of the first period came two minutes before the break when Xavi had a lofted shot cleared off the line after racing into the area to meet a long pass from Ronaldinho. Rijkaard threw Henry on in place of Messi with just under half an hour to go, but it was Racing who continued to carry the greater threat in attack. The Cantabrians suffered a blow when they lost Smolarek for a foul on Eric Abidal, but the closest Barca came to cashing in on their numerical advantage was when Henry hit the base of the post with a dipping shot five minutes from time. Real Madrid got their title defence off to a winning start on Saturday with 2-1 comeback victory over city rivals Atletico at the Bernabeu, while Sevilla also came from behind to claim an emphatic 4-1 win over nine-man Getafe. Real Madrid got their title defence off to a winning start on Saturday with 2-1 comeback victory over city rivals Atletico at the Bernabeu, while Sevilla also came from behind to claim an emphatic 4-1 win over nine-man Getafe.

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