Gonzalo Higuain - Real Madrid, Valencia CF
were far from convincing as they began the defence of their La Liga crown with a 1-1 draw against Valencia
at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday evening.
Things began promisingly for the reigning champions as Gonzalo Higuain, who was picked ahead of Karim Benzema, put them ahead after just 10 minutes. But they were guilty of sitting back and failing to make their ball retention count, and shortly before the break Jonas restored parity with a header.
were unable to regain their advantage in the second half and thus had to settle for a point in front of a disgruntled and frustrated home crowd.
Madrid signalled their intent to score an early goal with an intense start that saw both Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo take shots from long range. Neither managed to work Diego Alves but Los Blancos
did not have to wait much longer to make the breakthrough.
Di Maria clipped the ball forward to Higuain
, who had sprung the offside trap, and the striker's control was instant. The Argentine saw his initial effort saved by Diego Alves, and indeed his follow-up. However, the third time proved a charm as Higuain rifled a volley into the back of the net with just 10 minutes on the clock.
Following the goal, Jose Mourinho's men played a far more patient game, but despite controlling possession, opportunities to find the net were sparse as Valencia sat deep.
With 25 minutes played, Xabi Alonso narrowly missed the target with a powerful attempt from wide on the left that lacked the whip to bend in at the far post.
But patience soon turned to complacency for the hosts and Los Che
capitalised by netting an equaliser three minutes before the break.
Iker Casillas failed to clear Tino Costa's fantastic delivery and Jonas
duly headed the ball into the vacated goal. The keeper did, however, succeed in injuring Pepe, who was subsequently withdrawn at half time after failing to recover from the collision with his captain.
Madrid began the second half as they did the first and after eight second-half minutes they missed a great chance to regain the lead. Mesut Ozil fed Di Maria but the winger failed to hit the target from a central position inside the box.
Valencia then thought they had scored as Roberto Soldado raced onto a ball from deep, rounded Casillas and poked into the empty net, only to be given offside. The television replay proved inconclusive.
The game became absurdly stale after that, with neither side offering much in the attacking department. Mourinho was the first coach to change things around, as he replaced Lass Diarra with Karim Benzema on the hour mark.
It seemed to galvanise his side and six minutes later they almost went back in front. A great centre from Di Maria found Alves out of position but Higuain's header rattled the bar before being cleared away.
The effect soon dissipated though as Los Blancos
lacked urgency to find a winner and it was not until the 82nd minute that they tested Alves. An extremely quiet Ronaldo drilled a cross into the area but Benzema's ferocious strike was parried away by the Valencia shot-stopper.
Mourinho's men were unable to find the net again as the two sides shared the spoils on the opening weekend of La Liga. Madrid will need to be far more clinical when they face Barcelona in the Spanish Supercopa in midweek.