Fantastic flop for Barca | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 28, 2007 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 28, 2007

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Fantastic flop for Barca


Barcelona striker Thierry Henry (L) shoots the ball past the futile challenge of Racing Santander defender Jorge Lopez during their Premera Liga encounter at the Sardinero Stadium in Santander on Sunday.Photo: AFP

Barcelona's hopes of wrenching the Spanish title back from Real Madrid suffered an early jolt Sunday when they could only draw 0-0 at Racing Santander, a day after Real had opened with a derby win at home to Atletico.
The Catalan club, denied a title hat-trick by Real's final day success in June, left French striker Thierry Henry on the bench to begin with before allowing him a half hour to impress after replacing Leo Messi.
But Barca's "Fantastic Four" strikers had left their shooting boots at home.
"We lacked the freshness to make the difference," said coach Frank Rijkaard.
"It wasn't a great showing and we have some work to do. Santander got a lot of players behind the ball and left us little space."
With Real and Seville out of the blocks with wins - Seville squashed nine-man Getafe 4-1 to wreck the coaching debut in Spain of Michael Laudrup - other title contenders were determined to get off to a similar start.
But Barca failed, as did Valencia, fourth last season but woeful as they were thumped 3-0 at home by near neighbours Villarreal, who went ahead through Dane Jon Dahl Tomasson's neat effort on the quarter hour.
Quique Flores's Valencia then had two men sent off - striker David Villa before the break and then Joaquin after the interval - before former Manchester United man Guiseppe Rossi made it two and Santi Cazorla wrapped things up for Villarreal.
It was Santander, who spent nothing in the close season compared with Real's 120 million euro outlay and 70 million for Barcelona, who made the better start against Barca and visiting keeper Dely Valdes had to be alert to deny Oscar Serrano, left unmarked in the box.
Barca had another fright on 22 minutes when Gonzalo Colsa hit the post.
Barcelona nearly went ahead on the stroke of half time when Luis Fernandez stretched to clear off a Xavi chip off the Santander line.
Santander nearly broke the deadlock in the 65th minute as an effort from Ebi Smolarek flashed just wide but the Pole then blotted his copybook as he chopped down Barca's new French defender Eric Abidal to earn a dismissal with 20 minutes remaining. A Henry snapshot then rebounded off the woodwork as Barca belatedly pressed for the three points, beefing up their creative strength with the arrival of Portuguese star Deco for new Ivory Coast signing Yaya Toure.
But Santander held firm to take a deserved point and give further early cheer to Real, who earned praise from coach Bernd Schuster.
"We didn't have any weak points and we really pushed ourselves to seal the win," said the German.
Elsewhere, promoted Almeria shocked Deportivo La Coruna with a 3-0 away win while Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna ended goalless.
Valladolid won by the only goal at Espanyol while Mallorca swatted Levante 3-0 and Recreativo Huelva and Real Betis parted 1-1.
Meanwhile, Seville defender Antonio Puerta remained in hospital after suffering a heart attack during his side's win over Getafe.
Puerta, 22, fainted after half an hour of Saturday's match, with his side losing 1-0.
Teammate Ivica Dragutinovic and medical staff rushed to his aid and prevented the player from swallowing his tongue before he was taken to intensive care.
Later Sunday, Seville chairman Jose Maria del Nido told Cadena Cope radio that Puerta's condition had slightly improved.

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