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LaLiga: Modric and Molina fall foul of new tackling directive


We were still digesting Luka Modric's red card at Celta, which was in general felt to have been harsh, when Jorge Molina was sent off for a similar incident in Getafe's defeat to Atlético. On Saturday, ex-FIFA official Eduardo Iturralde advised AS that referees have this summer been instructed to clamp down on tackles targeting the area of the Achilles tendon - and the result is something we see every year: refs begin the season fixated on a particular facet of the play, and wreak havoc in the opening weeks of the campaign. After a while, they get over it and things slowly return to normal. Challenges aimed at the Achilles are dangerous and should be kept in check, of course; but in these two instances what we saw were two involuntary collisions that bore no malice and did not do any harm.

Modric (second left) sees red at Balaídos this weekend.
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Modric (second left) sees red at Balaídos this weekend.Octavio PassosGetty Images

The two sendings-off are the key headlines to have emerged from this opening matchday of the LaLiga season, together with Aritz Aduriz's wonderful goal against Barcelona, Gareth Bale's resurrection at Balaídos, and, in the weekend's final game, the moment of brilliance from Joao Félix that led to Atlético's penalty (which Álvaro Morata subsequently saw saved by David Soria). A tremendous piece of play that very few are capable of, and which confirms Félix as the stand-out addition to the Spanish top flight this term. It is just a shame that he was forced off injured not long after that. And that Atlético head coach Diego Simeone insists on playing such unadventurous football despite now having the players to adopt a different approach, chief among them the Portuguese teenager.

Wiping bans carried over from 2018/19 was an absurd idea

On another note, thank heavens the players who had carried over a suspension from last season were finally made to serve their bans. The idea of giving them a pardon was absurd, and would just have left us with a final matchday of unpunished offences. Wiping players' yellow-card slates clean before the semi-finals of knockout tournaments is another matter; that avoids people missing finals over trivialities. This is totally different, and leaves me with the impression that Spanish FA chief Luis Rubiales got himself into a needless quarrel in which he only succeeded in making Mariano Soriano, the National Sports Council head who formally issued the request for the pardons, look bad. Rubiales needs to be a bit more careful; he's a figure in danger of becoming a little too controversial for his own good.