World news – AU – European roundup: Real Madrid held goalless by Real Sociedad


Real Madrid made an underwhelming return to La Liga as they could only draw 0-0 at Real Sociedad in the first game of their title defence.

The champions looked rusty and particularly toothless up front, barely creating any chances of note in either half as Karim Benzema found little support in the Brazilian teenage forwards Vinícius Jr and Rodrygo.

Benzema missed Real’s best chance of the first half when he lost his footing as he rounded the goalkeeper Álex Remiro and later saw a goalbound shot blocked by a dive from the Sociedad defender Aritz Elustondo.

Marvin, a 20-year-old substitute, could have had a dream Madrid debut when a chance fell his way but he failed to keep his composure. David Silva made his first La Liga appearance in a decade when he came on as a substitute for Sociedad in the second half.

Coach Zinedine Zidane defended his decision to leave striker Luka Jovic on the bench. “It was difficult because we could have brought on another striker but that would have changed our shape and I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to improve our wing play by bringing on wide players and that’s what we did,” Zidane said.

Zidane was asked if he had any particular problem with Jovic, who scored 27 goals in the 2018-19 season for Eintracht Frankfurt but only started four times in the league for Real in the last campaign.

“No, we have many players in our squad and I have to pick them and I decided to do what I did,” he said.

“I don’t have anything against any player, it was all about our formation and I didn’t want to change it and Karim was playing well.“

Despite a subdued start to his side’s title defence, Zidane said he was mostly pleased with their performance even though he stressed their need to be more creative in attack and more clinical.

“We lacked a goal threat and a bit of clarity in attack, particularly in the second half, but we played well in the first 40 minutes and overall we should be happy with what we did,” he added.

“We didn’t allow them many chances and we were good in defence but we have to start working now, we know we need to improve in front of goal. We always like to go out to win the game so today we feel as though we have lost two points.”

Andrea Pirlo got his coaching career off to a winning start as his Juventus side beat Sampdoria 3-0 in their opening Serie A game of the season. The champions went ahead when Dejan Kulusevski scored on his debut in the 13th minute, with only his sixth touch of the ball in a Juventus shirt, before the defender Leonardo Bonucci and Cristiano Ronaldo added further goals in the last 15 minutes.

Pirlo, the former Milan and Juventus midfielder, had no senior coaching experience when he was surprisingly chosen to replace Maurizio Sarri in August, and only got his coaching badge last week.

Pirlo cited Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti and Antonio Conte as his biggest influences but said that his style of football would be a mix of everything.

“I don’t want to copy anyone, I have my own ideas and I will take my cue from the teams that impressed me,” he said. “We haven’t had much time because the boys have only been back for a week from their national team commitments.”

“We saw a few things today and in the friendlies but it will take time to assimilate things. We are missing players but, with the ones we have, we will try to do the best we can.”

Juve dominated possession, something Pirlo said he wanted them to do, and also pressed Sampdoria aggressively and broke quickly when they had the ball. However, they still needed two late goals to ensure the three points.

“It’s about finding the right balance,” he said. “Quality players are always welcome, as long as they have the characteristics to bring balance to the team.”

Napoli pounced on two defensive mistakes to win 2-0 at Parma in their opening match as spectators returned to Serie A for the first time since March. Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne got their campaign off to a winning start with second-half goals shortly after the club record signing Victor Osimhen was brought on for his debut.

A smattering of fans, wearing masks and widely spaced apart, watched the game at Parma’s Stadio Tardini after the government agreed to allow up to 1,000 spectators at matches for the first time since the Covid-19 lockdown.

Genoa, who narrowly escaped relegation last season, made a flying start under their new coach Rolando Maran as they thumped promoted Crotone 4-1. Mattia Destro and the 37-year-old Goran Pandev put them 2-0 ahead inside 10 minutes before Emmanuel Rivière pulled one back before the half-hour. Davide Zappacosta, making his debut on loan from Chelsea, made it 3-1 with a solo goal in the 34th minute and Marko Pjaca, signed on loan from Juventus on Saturday, added the fourth in the 75th.

The Sassuolo midfielder Mehdi Bourabia curled in an 87th-minute free-kick to salvage a 1-1 draw at home to Cagliari, who were playing their first match under the former Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco. Giovanni Simeone gave the Sardinian side the lead with a diving header from João Pedro’s cross in the 77th minute and had a goal disallowed for offside three minutes later.

In Germany RB Leipzig eased past Mainz 3-1 in their Bundesliga opener to enjoy a successful start to league life without their striker Timo Werner. Werner, now of Chelsea, had missed their run to their Champions League semi-finals in August but Leipzig had little trouble finding the back of the net against Mainz, striking twice in four minutes.

Emil Forsberg converted a 17th-minute penalty for a foul on Dani Olmo and Yussuf Poulsen rose high to drill in a header for the second goal. Mainz cut the deficit three minutes after the restart when Quaison threaded a ball through the entire Leipzig defence for Jean-Philippe Mateta to score with a fine finish. Any hopes of a comeback lasted only three minutes, however, with Amadou Haidara tapping in a Forsberg assist in the 51st minute to restore Leipzig’s two-goal cushion.


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