MADRID: Atletico Madrid were held to a 0-0 draw by nine-man Barcelona in a frantic Primera Liga encounter at the Vicente Calderon on Sunday.
Despite the score-line the game was not short of incident as Barca midfielders Philip Cocu and Thiago Motta were dismissed in the second half for picking up their second bookings and both sides failed to cash in on good scoring opportunities.
Unbeaten Villarreal continued their impressive start to the season with a 2-0 win away to Racing Santander, goals coming from former Barcelona players Sonny Anderson and Juan Roman Riquelme.
Rafa Benitez’s Valencia are the new leaders thanks to their confident 2-0 win over a disappointing Real Madrid at the Mestalla on Saturday.
An early goal from Mista and a second-half strike from Brazilian forward Ricardo Oliveira gave Benitez’s side a thoroughly deserved triumph over last season’s champions.
Former leaders Deportivo Coruna lost their 100% record on Saturday after they slumped to a surprise 3-2 defeat at Osasuna, shipping three goals in nightmare four-minute spell in the first half.
Valencia now lead the standings on 13 points, one ahead of Deportivo and three ahead of Real, who are level on points with Osasuna, who are usually to be found at the other end of the table.
Villarreal and Barcelona occupy fifth and sixth places respectively with nine points each from their five games.
At the other end of the table Albacete claimed their first points since returning to the top flight with a 2-0 home win over Real Mallorca, while Malaga gained their debut win of the season with a 2-1 victory away to Espanyol.
Espanyol, who have yet to win a game, now replace Albacete at the foot of the table.
Despite being roared on by a 54,000 capacity crowd at the Calderon, Atletico started nervously and it was Barca who took control of the game in the opening minutes.
Ronaldinho looked certain to cash in on some hesitant defending in the eighth minute after he received a headed pass from Patrick Kluivert just three metres from goal, but his lobbed shot ended up in the hands of Atletico goalkeeper German Burgos.
Ronaldinho and Kluivert combined well on several more occasions to slice through the Atletico midfield, but they were unable to add the finishing touches to some promising attacks.
It was Atletico, though, who looked to have stolen the lead just before the half hour mark when Mexican defender Rafael Marquez headed into his own net from a corner, but the goal was ruled out for pushing.
Atletico sparked in to life for the remainder of the first half, with defender Matias Lequi forcing a fine full-stretch save from Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
Barcelona faced an uphill battle after they were reduced to 10 men when Cocu was dismissed on 58 minutes when he picked up a second booking for a foul on midfielder Kizito Musampa.
Atletico proceeded to lay siege to the Barca goal but not even after their opponents were reduced to nine men with the sending off of Motta 12 minutes from time were they able to break the deadlock. – Reuters