MADRID, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Barcelona beat Real Sociedad while Real Madrid drew at Athletic Bilbao as Spain’s top two travelled to the Basque Country on Saturday. Here are five talking points from this weekend’s La Liga action.
Vital Dembele ensures Anoeta curse is over
Ousmane Dembele struggled grimly to make an impact in a debut season plagued by injury last year, but the French winger is finally flying for Barcelona.
After scoring the winner against Sevilla to win the Spanish Super Cup, Dembele has netted winners against Real Valladolid and now at Real Sociedad.
If Barcelona wanted reassurance they had broken the curse of Anoeta they found it on Saturday, when they put in their worst performance of the season but still emerged with a 2-1 win.
Ernesto Valverde’s side triumphed there in La Liga last season, which was the first time since 2007. They doubled down on that with this victory to maintain their 100 percent record at the start of the season.
Rayo pick their spot
Rayo Vallecano had not won a La Liga game away from home since September 2015, while Huesca were looking forward to hosting their first ever match in Spain’s top flight on Friday.
They couldn’t have asked for better visitors, on paper, but on grass it was a different story.
Stoke City loanee Giannelli Imbula’s brilliant bullet from distance was the difference between the two sides at El Alcoraz, Rayo triumphing 1-0 to put their first points on the board this season.
Valencia unprepared for Champions League return
Marcelino’s Valencia deservedly earned their place in this season’s Champions League but have started their La Liga campaign abysmally, sitting 17th.
With Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus coming to Mestalla on Wednesday, Los Che were looking for a first win of the season to build morale at home against Real Betis on Saturday.
Instead they drew 0-0, their third stalemate of a campaign which has not yet got started.
Isco dilemma persists for Real
Former Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane could not find a way to play Isco while also lining up with three forwards. His successor Julen Lopetegui is now discovering the same problem.
The coach left the Spanish playmaker on the bench but brought him on as Madrid trailed to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, and Isco took just three minutes to score and earn Los Blancos a 1-1 draw at the San Mames.
His bright cameo showed Lopetegui cannot ignore him, but fellow forwards Marco Asensio, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale are playing well too.
Using the four would be too gung-ho, so Lopetegui has some thinking to do.
Borja saves Atletico and spoils his father’s coffee
After keeping Antoine Griezmann and reinforcing the squad with a host of impressive signings, Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid were tipped to wrestle Barcelona’s league title away this season.
However, they needed a last minute goal from youngster Borja Garces to draw 1-1 with Eibar on Saturday, another disappointing performance in a stuttering start which leaves them seven points behind leaders Barca.
Borja’s goal, in the fourth and final minute of additional time, was a magic moment.
The 19-year-old’s father paid a price for it, though. “This morning I went to eat breakfast in a cafe (in Melilla) and 200 people came to greet me... I had to ask for another coffee because mine had gone cold!” Manolete Garces told Marca.
“I had 1,200 messages on my mobile, it took me three hours to read them!” added Borja’s mother, Beli. (Reporting by Rik Sharma Editing by Christian Radnedge)