The 2017-18 Liga Iberdrola season kicked off this weekend with Barcelona quick to shoot to the top on goal difference, tied for points with Atletico Madrid, Valencia, Espanyol, Athletic Club and Sporting Huelva.
Further down, Rayo, Tenerife, Levante and Madrid are all tied on a point after respective draws and Sociedad, Betis, Albacete, Sevilla, Santa Teresa and Zaragoza are yet to get off of the mark.
The first match of the season to kick-off, Mari Paz had the honour not just of scoring the decisive goal to give Valencia all three points but the first goal of the 2017-18 season. The crucial moment came ten minutes after the break when Paz got her toe under the ball from the left side of the box to lift it over Mariasun, the goalkeeper unable to hold on to the aerial ball despite getting two hands to it before it slipped behind her and into the hungry net. Real kept themselves well in it until the final whistle but it just wasn’t to be for Txuriurdin who’ll be left hoping that their encounter with Atleti next week brings about their first win in six.
Arguably not the best team on the day the hosts did well to keep Betis out although Los Verdiblancos would have been left kicking themselves and their poor finishing, the possession and chances all there. Having lost their starting goalkeeper to a shoulder injury less than ten minutes in, Joan Bacardit was forced to go to his bench early on and bring on Mimi for Maríajo leaving him with one less option later in the game.
As the minutes ticked by and the two remained deadlocked, the hosts found themselves presented with more and more chances, Paloma Fernández the one to capitalise twenty minutes from time. Elisa del Estal vital to force a poor back-pass from Clau that Fernández chased down, sharp to reach the ball before Miriam as she skipped ‘round the ‘keeper before rolling the ball into the waiting net.
Reigning champions were in for a first day shock in Albacete when the hosts took an unexpected lead ten minutes in, Alba Redondo able to rob Esther Gonzalez with ease before blasting her shot past Lola Gallardo from the top of the box.
The goal was certainly not in the scrip and Atleti unsurprisingly began to dictate play once more but up against a stubborn Funda side with their finishing boots seemingly left in Madrid, the champions looked muted. The hot Spanish sun and exhaustive nature of the game finally took their toll on the hosts and Madrid finally found an opening through Kenti Robles twenty minutes from time. Well spotted by Amanda Sampedro, Robles’ stroked the ball over Elena to finally give the visitors something to cling onto before Sampedro made it two minutes later with a powerful shot across the box to the far corner. Their resolve broken, there was little Albacete could do when Sonia Bermúdez dragged the ball into the far side of the net after skipping away from her marker in stoppage time, three points wrapped up nicely.
Scrappy defending in the home box gave María José enough room to work with as she found the bottom corner twelve minutes in in Madrid, the hosts struggling to get going in the early stages. As the match wore on the game opened up and both sides saw chances refused before Natalia snatched a late point, emphatically blasting the ball home after Paula Andújar had nodded towards goal at a corner. Whilst a draw might not have been too desirable for either it stands as a good building block for the long season ahead.
A team fond of a goal or two Barcelona showed little remorse in Aragon, shots peppered the home box as the goals trickled in past the hapless defence, the tie settled long before the half-time whistle.
Marta Torrejón claimed the first of the evening eleven minutes in when she knocked Mariona’s neat header over the line by the back-post after the striker had met Elise Bussaglia’s whipped free kick. Alexia Putellas was the beneficiary of Bárbara Latorre’s neat footwork twelve minutes later when the Zaragoza native skipped into the box and sent a low ball towards goal, Putellas light on her feet to poke the ball home as she turned away from Lucía Fuertes. Andressa Alves made it three ten minutes later as she dashed unmarked through the centre of the park. Bárbara again creating on the right, her shot once again finding Fuertes, the defender only able to kick the ball at Andressa who knew little about it, the ball deflecting off of her feet and in.
The fourth goal started on the right once more, Mariona the one to slip through the stringy defence, Andressa’s effort blocked and sent back to the wily number nine for her to volley into the far corner, Esther Sullastres left grasping at air. But the Catalans weren’t done there, not even close, again the ball came from the right, Mariona and Andressa linking in the box to terrorise the hosts. With white shirts fast getting back, Andressa again saw her shot blocked and set towards Mariona on her right, the striker’s effort taking a nick off of Natalia’s boot, Putellas by the back post to make sure of the goal though the ball had already crossed.
Already five down and trickling towards half-time the team from Aragon couldn’t even make it to the break without conceding a sixth, Andressa the first to grab herself a brace on the night. The Brazilian the one to step up to the spot and send Sullastres the wrong way after Mariona had been clipped by Laura on her way out of the box.
Not to be left out, Bárbara got her name onto the scoresheet five minutes after the break, her goal the pick the bunch as the ball curled around her marker and the back of the ‘keeper rising to wrap under the bar. The two sides barely had time to reset before Torrejón grabbed her second of the night, her plumb near-post header more than enough to beat Sullastres.
Eight goals to the good all before the hour, Barcelona lost some of their edge the team still carrying a serious threat but against increasingly large numbers of white shirts there was no excessive need to force the issue.
The ninth and final goal of the match one of the more avoidable, Sullastres lackadaisical goal-kick sent right to Andressa. A neat run around the back of the tired defence saw second-half substitute Toni Duggan able to latch onto the Brazilian’s through-ball before drawing the ‘keeper in and rounding her as she went down, the ball vicious enough to find the back of the net before Nora Sánchez could get back and clear.
A free kick from deep inside their own half proved enough for Huelva to take the lead as the ball was lofted into the area, Anita’s header on just right for Katharina Aufhauser to chip the ball high over Claudia before slipping just under the bar. Jenni Morilla restored parity thirteen minutes later when she caught Sarita Serrat overcommitted, the experienced attacker sharp to nod the ball over the advancing ‘keeper before knocking it into the vacated goal. As the pair remained locked at 1-1 throughout almost all of the second-half a draw seemed inevitable but for a moment of brilliance from Elena Pavel and another set piece from deep. The 40-yard free-kick struck with enough venom to loop over the entire pitch before dropping from the sky and cresting under the bar to seal all three points for the hosts eight minutes from time.
The visitors started brightly in Badajoz, the ever-dangerous Nekane unlucky to see her shot catch the post and stay out in the second minute although consistent pressure saw the 26-year-old break the deadlock just before half-time from outside the area. Aina restored parity for the hosts with a deft header not long before the hour after getting on the end of Marta Parralejo’s smart free kick.
Level on the scores once more, Santa Teresa managed to carve out another handful of chances before Nekane doubled her tally for the day late in stoppage time to ensure all three points would be going back north to Bilbao.
Charlyn Corral gave Levante the perfect start in Valencia, taking a touch to get away from her marker before turning back towards goal and chipping the ball over both Ale and Paola Ulloa to find the top corner from 20-yards. Eight minutes later Lucía Gómez tried to double the advantage with an over-head kick that slipped just wide before new-comers Madrid restored parity. A terrible clearance from Sandra landed perfectly against Patricia Mascaró’s shin as the attacker continued her forward run, the ball looping over the advanced goalkeeper and goalwards, Mascaró in constant motion to ensure the ball crossed on the line.
The hosts continued to test out the away defence over the remaining 75 minutes, though their efforts were without the suitable level of polish to bare an second goal, the team left to pay for Sandra’s error.