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Barca held by Alaves on Sergi's debut as caretaker coach

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Madrid, Oct 31 (IANS) Sergi Barjuan’s debut as FC Barcelona’s caretaker coach ended in disappointment as his side was held to a 1-1 draw by Alaves. Memphis Depay put Barca ahead early in the second half, but Luis Rioja’s quick reply meant a point each.

More worrying for Barca fans on Saturday night, although at times their team showed more aggression in attack, much of the display implied that their problems run much deeper than former coach Ronald Koeman who was sacked on Thursday morning.

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Sergi made no real changes to the starting 11, with youngsters Nico Gonzalez and Gavi partnering Sergio Busquets in the midfield. Barca looked to take the game to Alaves and for much of the first half they had the visitors pinned deep in their own half but without creating clear chances.

Memphis opened the scoring in the 49th minute with a brilliant curling shot into the corner of the net, but Alaves were level four minutes later when Luis Rioja and Joselu combined before Rioja dribbled round Ter Stegen to make it 1-1, Xinhua reports. Good work from Gavi then set up Memphis, but this time the striker’s shot rattled back off the woodwork and Alaves keeper Antonio Sivera also denied the Dutch striker, as well as making a good block from Philippe Coutinho, who had come into the game before halftime after Kun Aguero appeared to suffer a dizzy spell.

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There was more bad news for Barca when Gerard Pique had to limp off with 20 minutes left to play with Clement Lenglet on to replace him, while Riqui Puig — virtually ostracised by Ronald Koeman — replaced Gavi.

Barca continued to press, but the fact that Sergi’s last two changes were 19-year-old Abdessamad Ezzalzouli, who was making his debut, and 18-year-old Alejandro Balde, shows just how few resources they currently have available.

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Vinicius Jr was the difference as Real Madrid won 2-1 away to Elche. The Brazilian’s 22nd minute goal put his side ahead after an even first 45 minutes in which Real Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois was vital in denying Elche strikers Lucas Perez and Lucas Boye.

Things swung Madrid’s way in the second half when Elche midfielder Raul Guti was sent off with half an hour left to play and Vinicius’ second goal with 17 minutes left to play looked to have sealed the win.

A bad mistake from Casemiro allowed Pere Milla to pull a goal back for Elche in the 86th minute to give some emotion to the final moments of the game.

Sevilla remain second on goal difference behind Real Madrid after their 2-0 home win against Osasuna in a rainy Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Diego Carlos’ 40th minute header put Sevilla ahead, while Lucas Ocampos added a second on the hour mark to end Osasuna’s unbeaten away record.

Valencia ended a seven-game run without a win thanks to Hugo Guillamon’s 43rd minute goal, after he clipped the ball over Villarreal keeper Geronimo Rulli.

Villarreal had over 70 percent of the ball, but only managed one shot on target and Carlos Soler’s 77th minute penalty assured Valencia all three points in a bad-tempered game.

–IANS

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