Barca, Atletico stumble as Real Madrid picks it up


By Joseph Wilson ,AP

BARCELONA — Barcelona drew 0-0 at Osasuna and Atletico Madrid fell 1-0 at Espanyol on Saturday, leaving both teams one victory shy of matching a 45-year-old Spanish league record of wins to start the season.

Real Madrid reduced the gap with the two top sides by beating Malaga 2-0, and then watched both its rivals squander their chances to equal the milestone of nine wins in as many opening rounds it set in 1968.

Barcelona remained league leader by one point ahead of Atletico, with Madrid another two points behind and the first clasico match of the season looming next weekend at Camp Nou.

First, however, Barcelona visits AC Milan on Tuesday and Madrid hosts Juventus the next day in the Champions League. Atletico visits Austria Wien also on Tuesday.

Real Sociedad broke an eight-game winless streak in all competitions with a morale-boosting 2-1 victory at Valencia before it travels to Manchester United on Wednesday in Europe’s top-tier competition. Antoine Griezmann opened and Ruben Pardo added a long strike for Sociedad before Valencia’s Dorlan Pabon grabbed a consolation goal.

Saturday saw the return of Lionel Messi for Barcelona and Gareth Bale for Madrid from nagging muscle injuries. While Messi couldn’t muster a shot after going on in the 68th minute against the well-organized Osasuna, Bale earned a questionable penalty that Cristiano Ronaldo converted in injury time to seal Madrid’s victory over Malaga.

Barcelona was bolstered by the return of veteran defender Carles Puyol, who played all 90 minutes of his first game in seven months after recuperating from knee surgery.

“Each day I feel better,” said Puyol. “(These last months) have been hard. But that’s over. Now the good part comes.”

Faced with Neymar’s diabolical dribbling, Osasuna renounced the ball, packed its midfield, and hung on to a point its fans celebrated wildly and coach Javi Gracia said “tastes like a win.”