Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid both scored away wins on Saturday, against Getafe and Espanyol, though with more sweat than inspiration.
Barca beat Getafe 2-0 on goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lionel Messi, while Real won 3-0 thanks to strikes from Esteban Granero, Guti and Cristiano Ronaldo, who had started the game on the subs’ bench.
These results leave the giants jointly on top of La Liga with six points apiece.
Barca coach Josep Guardiola left Messi and Thierry Henry on the bench after their World Cup exertions, and started with youngsters Pedro Dominguez and Jeffren Suarez up front with Ibrahimovic.
Getafe had the clearer ideas in the first half, and first Juan Albin then Roberto Soldado hit the Barca woodwork with Victor Valdes beaten.
After half-time Guardiola brought on Messi and Andres Iniesta — finally fit again — and it was suddenly a different game.
Ibrahimovic, who also scored in the debut 3-0 thrashing of Sporting Gijon, made it 1-0 in the 66th minute by prodding in a loose ball after the Getafe defence had failed to clear an Eric Abidal centre.
Thirteen minutes later, a rapid counter led to Ibrahimovic setting Messi up to make it 2-0 with a simple header.
“They made things very difficult for us in the first half,” said Barca playmaker Xavi. “But we improved a lot in the second half, and we clearly deserved to win.” Later on Saturday Real beat an Espanyol side seemingly still affected by the heart attack death of captain Daniel Jarque in August.
It was the first league match played at Espanyol’s new stadium, which will probably be named after Jarque. The appalling pitch made good football difficult.
Espanyol made a lively start but failed to beat Iker Casillas, who was celebrating the 10th anniversary of his Real debut.
Five minutes before the interval Granero made it 1-0 with a fierce drive, after playing a clever one-two with Kaka.
Espanyol ran out of steam and ideas midway through the second half. In the 79th minute Kaka picked his way through the weary home defence and set up Guti to make it 2-0.
Three minutes from time Guti played Ronaldo through down the right and the world’s most expensive player made it 3-0 with a low drive.
Also on Saturday, troubled Atletico Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw by 10-man Racing Santander.
The game was preceded by an angry demonstration by Atletico fans, protesting the club’s lack of summer signings.
Jose Manuel Jurado gave Atletico the lead three minutes before half-time with a fierce left-foot drive. But Santander winger Oscar Serrano made it 1-1 in first-half injury time with a left-foot blast.
Santander had defender Jose Crespo sent off just two minutes into the second half, but nonetheless had few problems holding on for a draw.
The long-suffering Atletico fans jeered their own team off the field, then stayed behind to continue to protest club president Enrique Cerezo. Atletico have just one point after two games.