Free kicks give Atletico, Espanyol wins in Spanish league
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Goals from free kicks gave Atletico Madrid a slim win over promoted Las Palmas and helped Espanyol edge 10-man Getafe on Saturday as the Spanish league struggled to produce scoring on its opening weekend.
Atletico settled for a 1-0 victory thanks to Antoine Griezmann's free kick in the 16th minute at its Vicente Calderon Stadium. Las Palmas began the match looking out of its depth in its return to the top flight after 13 seasons, but the Canary Island club made the 2014 champions work for the win.
Griezmann's shot deflected off a defender to wrong-foot goalkeeper Raul Lizoain, who got a touch on the ball but couldn't keep it out. The France forward was Atletico's most incisive player and outshone Atletico's star signing of the summer, striker Jackson Martinez, who showed he needs time to adapt to Diego Simeone's side.
Simeone, however, was pleased with what he saw from the former FC Porto star.
''Jackson did a great job, it's not easy (for defenders) to move him,'' Simeone said. ''We're happy with our first victory at home. Las Palmas played an interesting match and had their opportunities to score.''
Outclassed in the first half, Las Palmas came close to scoring twice after halftime.
David Simon almost took advantage of Atletico's first dip in concentration during a free kick, only to head the ball off the bar in the 58th. Atletico goalie Jan Oblak then dove to get one hand on Aythyami Artiles try from a corner kick in the 72nd.
Atletico's Jorge ''Koke'' Resurreccion went close to widening the winning margin when he sent a free kick off the post in the last minute.
Elsewhere, the Spanish league saw two more 0-0 draws after Valencia stalled at Rayo Vallecano and Real Sociedad split the points at Deportivo La Coruna.
Both matches were similar to Friday's league opener when Sevilla and Malaga showed more rust than punch from the summer in their 0-0 draw.
In Barcelona, Espanyol midfielder Salva Sevilla secured a 1-0 win over Getafe with a dipping free kick that went in off the upright in the third minute.
It was the only clear scoring chance of the game, as Espanyol didn't muster another effort on target - not even after Getafe's Santiago Vergini received his second booking with eight minute to play.
''We suffered, we gave it our all, we competed like animals, and this was our reward,'' said Espanyol coach Sergio Gonzalez, who saw the club sell several key players this offseason.
Saturday saw a series of woeful misses from inside the area.
Getafe striker Alvaro Vazquez had an ideal opportunity to level at Espanyol in the 87th, but failed to tap in the ball in front of an open net, instead sending it across the goalmouth before knocking his head on the post.
In Madrid, Valencia's Santi Mina and Pablo Piatti couldn't score from passes that reached them inside the six-yard box in the first half.
It was then Rayo striker Manucho's turn to lament his own howler in the second half when he turned Patrick Ebert's low cross past the wrong side of the post.
And when Alvaro Negredo's aim was true, Rayo goalkeeper Antonio ''Tono'' Rodriguez made an excellent save to deny the Valencia striker a stoppage-time winner.
Valencia visits Monaco on Tuesday in the second leg of their Champions League playoff after winning their first meeting 3-1.
Barcelona starts its title defense at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, before Real Madrid visits Sporting Gijon.