Real Madrid toil in goalless opening draw at Real Sociedad

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Real Madrid players appeal in vain for a penalty against Real Sociedad
Real Madrid players appeal in vain for a penalty against Real Sociedad AFP

Real Madrid began the defence of their Spanish title with a tepid 0-0 draw at Real Sociedad on Sunday as Martin Odegaard made his first league start for the reigning champions against his former club.

Madrid are heading into the La Liga season after making no new signings this summer, with president Florentino Perez admitting the club has to be cautious amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Odegaard is the closest thing to a new arrival, the attacking midfielder returning early from his two year loan with Real Sociedad, after he shone for them last season.

But there have been a string of sales, including Gareth Bale, whose move back to Tottenham was confirmed on Saturday, and James Rodriguez, who has already impressed after joining Everton.

Norwegian Odegaard, whose only other league appearance for Madrid came in May 2015, lasted 69 minutes before he was replaced by Casemiro.

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Zinedine Zidane has brushed off suggestions his Real Madrid side could lack freshness this season, with a very familiar XI starting this first game.

One notable omission was Eden Hazard, whose fitness remains unresolved, even after the summer break. Zidane admitted on Saturday he was unsure whether Hazard has recovered from the ankle injury that required him to have surgery earlier this year.

Sergio Ramos, three goals shy of a century for Madrid, watched an acrobatic effort blocked in a quiet first half before Karim Benzema dragged wide of the post after rounding the goalkeeper.

Alexander Isak spurned the best chance when Thibaut Courtois spread his body well to block from the young Swedish striker.

Teenager Ander Barrenetxea side-footed just past the post early in the second half while Alex Remiro made comfortable stops from Dani Carvajal and Benzema.

David Silva made his La Liga return after a decade with Manchester City as he took the place of Isak for the final 25 minutes.

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Barcelona do not start their league campaign under new coach Ronald Koeman until next weekend against Villarreal.

Granada lead the table with maximum points after two rounds following Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Alaves.

Real Betis trail on goal difference after beating Real Valladolid 2-0 with a penalty from Nabil Fekir and a William Carvalho goal.

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