BARCELONA: A Valencia team featuring young players earned a 2-1 win at 10-man Sevilla on the opening day of the Spanish league on Friday.
Twenty-year-old substitute Javi Guerra, who emerged as a talent last campaign, scored the 88th-minute winner after Sevilla had lost defender Loic Bade to a red card.
“I am very happy not just for the goal but for the win by the team,” Guerra said. “There is no better way to start the season.”
Hugo Duro was key to the win. He was breaking clear when Bade fouled him from behind with only the goalkeeper to beat and saw the direct red card in the 80th. And the striker helped recover the ball near Sevilla’s box before he assisted Guerra to slot home the winner.
Valencia barely avoided relegation last campaign and lost several players in the summer with Samuel Lino, Edinson Cavani, Yunus Musah, Justin Kluivert, Ilaix Moriba, and Nico González all leaving the club. Few signings were made by the club owned by Singaporean businessman Peter Lim, who is repeatedly criticized by Valencia’s fans for his lack of investment in the squad.
Valencia coach Rubén Baraja surprised by aligning central defender Mouctar Diakhaby as a box-to-box holding midfielder. The move paid off. Diakhaby was found by André Almeida arriving late to the area to score in the 59th minute.
“It was a position that I think he can play in because he has energy and likes to dispute the ball,” Baraja said about Diakhaby. “He did a great job for us and the goal was a bonus that we did not expect. We deserved this prize.”
Sevilla striker Youssef En-Nesyri equalized for the hosts in the 69th by heading in a cross by Suso.
Valencia also got impressive performance from attacking players Diego Lopez (21) and Fran Perez (20) to help pull off the upset at Sevilla, last season’s Europa League winner.
Sevilla next face Manchester City in the UEFA Super Cup on Wednesday.
NO OFFER FOR BOUNOU
Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou started for Sevilla amid speculation in the local media that Real Madrid could be interested in signing him to replace the injured Thibaut Courtois, who will miss several months after tearing a knee ligament on Thursday.
Sevilla president Pepe Castro said that Madrid have not made any moves to sign his club’s goalie.
“Sevilla has not received any offers (for Bounou) from any club,” Castro said.
Rayo Vallecano forward Randy Nteka scored one goal and helped produce another in a 2-0 win at Almeria.
Rayo took control of the league’s inaugural match thanks to two early penalties in the debut of coach Francisco Rodríguez, who replaced the successful Andoni Iraola after he took over Bournemouth in the Premier League.
Midfielder Isi Palazon, Rayo’s leading scorer last season, converted a 20th-minute penalty after Almeria defender Edgar Gonzalez fouled Nteka in the area while disputing a ball.
Nteka, who spent the second half of last season on loan at Elche, fired a second spot kick into the corner of the net eight minutes later after Almeria’s Sergio Akieme used his arm to block a cross by Nteka in the area.
Last season, Rayo flirted with a Europa League berth before finishing 11th. This summer they reinforced their squad with the arrival of central defender Aridane Hernandez from Osasuna and left back Alfonso Espino from Cadiz.
Madrid open their season on Saturday at Athletic Bilbao, while Barcelona are at Getafe on Sunday.