Tue, Sep 18, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Barca fail to score in Osasuna

GOOD FORM Last season Sevilla were in the title race until the closing stages and they've begun this season like contenders by gaining six points in two matches

AFP , MADRID

PHOTO: REUTERS

The Spanish season has only just started but Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard will not be happy at playing catch-up with a 0-0 draw in Osasuna on Sunday, leaving his team four points behind pacesetters Real Madrid.

Barcelona may have Thierry Henry, Ronaldinho and other attacking gems, but they failed to score for the second time in three games and surrendered another two points.

With Real having their best start since 1992 -- winning their opening three matches -- the pressure was on Barca but they failed to respond with an ineffective display at Osasuna.

It does not get any easier for Barcelona, who face French champions Lyon in the Champions League tomorrow and then high-flying Sevilla next weekend in the first title clash of the new season.

Sevilla, who have played one game less, also have a perfect record and showed they are in fine shape ahead of tomorrow's tough Champions League match against Arsenal with an impressive 4-1 home win over Recreativo Huelva on Sunday.

With Lionel Messi suffering from muscular problems the Barcelona coach handed 18-year-old Giovani, recently-capped by Mexico, his first league start at Osasuna and Argentine Gabriel Milito also made his Barcelona debut.

Giovani went close to scoring in the 34th minute but Javier Portillo then missed the best chance of the first half after Lilian Thuram had slipped.

With the deadlock still not broken, Rijkaard gave a late debut to 17-year-old forward Bojan Krkic, a star for Spain in the recent under-17 World Cup, but to no avail.

Last season Sevilla were in the title race until the closing stages and they have started this season like potential challengers winning their home game against Recreativo Huelva at a canter.

Russian Alexander Kerzhakov, who also missed a penalty, and Mali international Frederic Kanoute both scored twice to sink Recreativo.

It was Sevilla's first league match since the death of their former Spanish international defender Antonio Puerta and they offered a fitting tribute with a terrific display of attacking soccer.

It was the perfect preparation for the UEFA Cup winners ahead of the testing Champions League match at Arsenal -- who are unbeaten and lead the English Premier League.

"Right from the start you could sense Sevilla's superiority and I think 4-1 was a fair result," Sevilla coach Juande Ramos said. "Arsenal know that Sevilla are a good team and they will respect us just like we will respect them."

Another boost for Sevilla was the brilliant performance of Brazilian Daniel Alves who appears to have healed his rift with the club after they denied him a summer move to Chelsea.

Ivory Cost striker Arouna Kone also made his debut on a night of many positives for Sevilla.

While Real are beaming after picking up a maximum nine points fans of neighbors Atletico Madrid wait impatiently for their team's first win of the campaign following a disappointing 1-1 draw at Murcia on Sunday.

After splashing out millions of euros on the likes of Simao, Diego Forlan and Antonio Reyes in the summer, Mexican coach Javier Aguirre is expected to have the club competing on all fronts and two points from nine is a poor start.

"We were satisfied with our goal and in the end that cost us dearly," Aguirre said.

Atletico's next test is in the UEFA Cup against Turkish club Erciyesspor on Thursday.

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