Star-studded champions Barcelona slumped to an embarrassing 2-0 home defeat at the hands of minnows Hercules on Saturday, while Jose Mourinho savored his first win in charge of Real Madrid.
Paraguayan forward Nelson Haedo Valdez, signed from Borussia Dortmund, had a day to treasure, scoring his first Hercules goal on 26 minutes and then another on 58 minutes as Barcelona crashed to a shock defeat against a side who have returned to the top flight after a 13-year absence.
Barcelona went the whole season unbeaten at home in the last campaign and this was their first home defeat in the league since May 23 last year, when they lost to Osasuna having already won the title.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, who must pick his side up for tomorrow’s Champions League opener against Panathinaikos at the Camp Nou, refused to make excuses for the Hercules setback.
“There have always been international breaks and we didn’t fail to win because of that,” Guardiola said. “I see how the players work every day and I don’t have any doubts about this team.”
Guardiola handed a league debut to Argentine Javier Mascherano, his new signing from Liverpool, and rested Spanish World Cup winners Xavi, Sergi Busquets and Pedro Rodriguez. Despite Barcelona dominating, it was underdogs Hercules who struck first with a well-worked set-piece.
Roysten Drenthe, on loan from Real Madrid, floated in a free-kick which Barcelona defended poorly and Valdez was allowed to bundle the ball home.
At halftime, Barcelona trailed 1-0 to the dismay of the home fans and Guardiola responded with a double substitution, with Xavi on for debutant Mascherano and Pedro replacing Bojan.
An equalizer looked on the cards, but close to the hour mark Tiago Gomes did well down right and found Valdez, who fired into the top corner for a second Hercules goal.
Real boss Mourinho had Portuguese compatriot Ricardo Carvalho to thank for scoring the decisive goal in the 1-0 win over Osasuna at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The 32-year-old Carvalho scored his first goal in Madrid colors on 48 minutes to ensure a winning home debut for Mourinho following a disappointing 0-0 draw at Real Mallorca on the opening day of the campaign.
Carvalho, who has played for Mourinho at FC Porto, Chelsea and now Real, had a simple tap-in for the winning goal after being set up by Cristiano Ronaldo.
“The Barcelona defeat is a surprise, but it is part of football and the important thing was that we won,” Ronaldo said. “We didn’t play fantastically well, but at this stage winning is the crucial thing.”
The victory took Real a point above champions Barcelona into third, with neighbors Atletico Madrid topping the table following a 2-1 win at Athletic Bilbao.
Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan, voted the best player at the World Cup, scored on 10 minutes for his third goal of the season, before Tiago added a late second.
Valencia are also on a perfect six points in second spot after defeating Racing Santander 1-0 at home on Saturday.
Mourinho made four changes to the starting lineup against Mallorca, handing first league starts to Germany internationals Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira.
Ronaldo was expected to be out for another fortnight with an ankle injury, but the Portuguese winger made a miraculous recovery to start.
Ronaldo had the first real opening of the match on 20 minutes, latching on to a pass from the lively Ozil, but his low shot was well saved.
A flat goalless first half saw jeers at the halftime whistle from the unhappy home fans, but three minutes after the break, Real gave Mourinho his first goal as coach.
Karim Benzema crossed for Ronaldo, who looked certain to score, but goalkeeper Ricardo blocked well. Ronaldo reacted quickly, however, to poke the ball to Carvalho for an easy tap-in.
The goal repaid Mourinho’s faith in Carvalho, who he signed for Chelsea in 2004 before recruiting him for Madrid this summer.
Real stepped it up after the break and Higuain was denied by Ricardo on 65 minutes, before Ozil went close with a clever chip 60 seconds later.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker found himself in need of an assist to help the state fight the COVID-19 pandemic. He called on the New England Patriots. One of the team’s private airplanes on Thursday evening landed in Boston after returning from China carrying more than 1 million masks critical to healthcare providers fighting to control the spread of the coronavirus. Members of the Massachusetts National Guard met the airplane and offloaded the containers of masks onto waiting trucks for transport to warehouses for distribution. Baker secured the N95 masks from Chinese manufacturers, but had no way of getting them to the US. He
WAIT AND SEE: The estimated cost of postponement started at US$2 billion and has kept rising, but the IOC has yet to say whether it would help pay for the extra expenses Postponing the Tokyo Olympics to next year would make the event more costly for all parties, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) acknowledged on Thursday, although it offered few details on what the final bill might be. Four directors of the Olympic body held a conference call three days after Tokyo’s new dates were finalized, with the Games pushed back to July 23 to Aug. 8 next year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the new dates cleared up any uncertainty about the event’s future, there are still plenty of question marks as the committee begins to work with Tokyo organizers and the
MEDIA RUMORS? With no pay agreement secured and players’ representatives calling for more financial information ahead of talks, the sport had another week of bad press Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle could be sacked in a matter of days, media reported yesterday, as the embattled governing body struggles to deal with a financial crisis compounded by a shutdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Castle this week took a 50 percent pay cut and laid off 75 percent of Rugby Australia (RA) staff members, saying that the body would face losses of up to A$120 million (US$71.95 million) if no more rugby was played this year. With no pay agreement secured with the players and their representatives calling on RA to provide more financial information ahead of negotiations, the
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are planning to play a charity golf match next month with Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, CNBC reported on Wednesday. CNBC, which cited an unnamed person familiar with the negotiations, said that the charity match would be held at an undisclosed location without fans and is being organized by the PGA Tour and AT&T’s WarnerMedia. The negotiations are still being finalized, but the match pitting 15-time major champion Woods and Manning against five-time major winner Mickelson and Brady could be aired on live TV and is unlikely to be featured on pay-per-view, CNBC said. “Discussions