The question on everyone’s lips ahead of the opening weekend of action was just how Barça (and the rest of the teams in LaLiga) would respond without Messi. As it turned out, any concerns were soon allayed. Barça came out firing on all cylinders against Real Sociedad and Memphis (who was registered at the last minute only because Piqué agreed a pay cut), impressed. Sure, he’s not Messi, and he is not going to score 50 goals per season, but he is a brilliant, creative player, who creates enough danger to propel Barça into their stride. During the first 20 minutes, Barça were sensational, constantly probing and winning the ball back as soon as they lost it.
Barcelona get off to a winning start
But the rest of the game was a different story. In the second half, after the changes at half-time, La Real perked up and at one point threatened to take the lead, but Barça stood their ground and took the game 4-2 which all gives cause for hope. Braithwaite scored two and set up another, in arguably his most convincing display since he joined Barça; and Griezmann looked decent overall. Barça have lost a lot with Messi’s departure, but on the flip side, their game has gained in terms of variety and vitality so fans went home happy after Sunday’s performance. Real Madrid also looked good and now that the fans are back in the stands, the general sensations after the opening fixtures are hopeful rather than pessimistic.
VAR controversy in Vigo
The reigning champions Atlético also looked strong, but that was expected. For them, there have been no traumas, only the pride at starting the new campaign defending their title and as they always do, taking it one game at a time. They won in spite of VAR, whose role in Vigo deserves mentioning. The ball struck Marcos Llorente's body then his hand inside the box in a move from a corner but ref, José Luis Munuera, didn’t deem it a penalty offence. However up in the VAR control room was David Medié, demoted last season, but at 41, now too old to officiate in the Second Division so he has been moved on to a new role. Medié instructed Munuera to award a penalty which, according to last season’s rules would have been given, but not now under the most recent changes. There was a similar incident earlier during Real Madrid’s game in Vitoria when Lucas Vázquez handled but no penalty was awarded.