Barca, Atletico stumble


MADRID – Barcelona and Atletico Madrid dropped their first points of the season on Saturday, missing the chance to equal the record for the best-ever La Liga start.

Champions Barca, who visit AC Milan in the Champions League tomorrow, were held 0-0 at Osasuna.

It was the first time they failed to score in a domestic league game in 65 matches since a 0-0 draw at Villarreal in January 2012.

Atletico also lost 1-0 at Espanyol as Real Madrid's record nine straight wins to kick off the 1968-69 campaign remained intact.

Third-placed Real won 2-0 at home to Malaga, Carlo Ancelotti's side closing within three points of leaders Barca ahead of next week's 'Clasico' at the Nou Camp and two points shy of Atletico.

Real won thanks to a goal from Angel Di Maria and a stoppage-time Cristiano Ronaldo penalty, won by world record signing Gareth Bale who was a late substitute.

Barca were unable to breach a well-drilled Osasuna defence in Pamplona and Atletico were thwarted by an Espanyol side who have made a strong start to the season under Mexican coach Javier Aguirre.

The only goal of the game at Espanyol's Cornella-El Prat stadium in Barcelona came in the 54th minute when the ball deflected into the net off the outstretched leg of Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Argentine Lionel Messi, who had not played since the end of last month due to a thigh strain, came off the bench for the final 25 minutes of Barca's game but not even the World Player of the Year could conjure a goal for the champions.

"We knew it was going to be tough," said captain Carles Puyol after making his first appearance in almost eight months following knee surgery.

"It's always difficult playing at this stadium," the 35-year-old told Canal Plus.

"We were missing some effectiveness in the final pass but it's one more point. Now we have to recover from this and prepare well for Tuesday."

Barca dominated Osasuna, who sat back looking to catch the visitors on the break, and came closest to scoring midway through the second half when Neymar just failed to get on the end of a low Martin Montoya centre.

Cesc Fabregas had two golden chances but fluffed an attempted chip before sending a wild shot sailing over the crossbar. – Reuters

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