Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid career began on a low note with a disappointing 0-0 draw at Real Mallorca on Sunday that did little to suggest his team can dethrone current champions Barcelona.
Portuguese coach Mourinho and his proven track record have Madrid fans excited about winning silverware after a two-year barren spell but his team failed to convince, lacking cohesion and creativity. Mourinho gave five players their Real debuts in his first match at the helm but they could not break down a resolute Mallorca side managed by Real old boy Michael Laudrup.
Real scored 102 goals last season under Manuel Pellegrini but they could not muster one for Mourinho in his managerial bow, with Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain missing three good chances. "It is important to defend well and score when you are not at your best and we are far from our best," explained Mourinho. "We defended well but didn't score despite having five or six clear chances and that was decisive."
Madrid trail Barcelona, who crushed Racing Santander 3-0 on Sunday, by two points, putting more pressure on the first home match of the season against Osasuna when the Santiago Bernabeu will expect a more polished display.
Spain 2010 FIFA World Cup™ star David Villa had a much more enjoyable debut than Mourinho, scoring a fine goal as Barcelona began their title defence with a resounding 3-0 win at Racing Santander. "He (Villa) is happy because he hadn't scored at El Sardinero (Racing's stadium) and really wanted to," said goalkeeper Victor Valdes. "It is always good to start with three points and will help to calm us."
Former Inter coach Mourinho gave debuts to Argentine winger Angel di Maria - a €25m capture from Benfica - teenager Sergio Canales and veteran Portuguese defender Ricardo Carvalho. Up front Mourinho deployed Higuain as a lone striker with Cristiano Ronaldo, Di Maria and Canales offering support from midfield and down the flanks.
Ronaldo, wearing the number seven shirt following the departure of Raul, almost broke the deadlock on the quarter-hour mark, firing a shot wide after a neat touch from Di Maria. On 26 minutes Higuain, top scorer last season, appeared to be nudged off balance by Ruben Rocha when clean through on goal and the stumbling Argentine saw the chance go begging.
Mallorca coach Laudrup was also enjoying his first game in charge but had to wait until the 40th minute before his team carved open a decent chance. A neat passing move ended in Uruguayan Gonzalo Castro drilling a shot wide of Iker Casillas's goal. Victor headed over from close range to give Real a scare in the second half and after an hour Mourinho introduced Karim Benzema and German midfielder Mesut Ozil for his debut.
Higuain was denied by Dudu Aouate shortly after with the Mallorca goalkeeper taking the ball off the Argentine's toes. Mourinho introduced a fifth debutant when German international Sami Khedira came on 20 minutes from time in the final throw of the dice. Higuain was denied by Aouate again, however, and Mallorca held on to frustrate Mourinho.
Barcelona were much more convincing, with summer signing Villa - a €40m purchase from Valencia - heading in his first league goal in Barcelona's colours. Argentine Lionel Messi had opened the scoring on three minutes with a neat chip for his 131st club goal to surpass Brazilian great Rivaldo in Barcelona's goalscoring hall of fame. Andres Iniesta, scorer of Spain's winning goal in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final, scored a sublime second with a side-footed volley before international team-mate Villa struck.