Maiden wins for Real and Villarreal
© AFP

Real Madrid got their title defence up and running on Sunday, grinding out a 4-3 home victory over newcomers Numancia who shocked the reigning champions by taking the lead twice.

It was a first win of the campaign for Real following their 2-1 loss at Deportivo La Coruna and bolstered confidence for Wednesday's UEFA Champions League opener against BATE Borisov.  Stand-in captain Guti had the honour of scoring Real's 5,000th league goal to equalise before Gonzalo Higuain netted and Rafael van der Vaart scored his first goal in a Real shirt. An own goal from Domingo Cisma proved decisive as Real registered their first three points of the campaign, something their rivals Barcelona have yet to achieve.

"The games after the international break are the most difficult," said Real coach Bernd Schuster. "They (Numancia) were always going to cause trouble for us as they had two weeks to prepare for this match and had beaten Barcelona."

Schuster also called for caution ahead of the BATE Champions League game. "In theory they are the easiest opponent but we have to tread carefully," added the German manager.

Yellow Submarine sinks Deportivo
Earlier Villarreal, runners-up last season, warmed up for Wednesday's Champions League trip to Old Trafford to face reigning champions Manchester United with a 1-0 home victory over Deportivo La Coruna.

It was a first win of the season for Villarreal, Champions League semi-finalists in 2006, who will hope to pile more misery on Man Utd after their 2-1 league loss at Liverpool. Spanish international Santiago Cazorla, a target for Real during the transfer window, scored the decisive goal on 27 minutes with a fierce left-footed shot to fire his team up to sixth.

We had lots of chances and the victory was fair but it would have been by a bigger margin had it not been for the performance of (Daniel) Aranzubia
Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini praises the performance of Deportivo La Coruna keeper Daniel Aranzubia.

"I am satisified with the win," said Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini. " (the Depor goalkeeper) and us rushing some things."

Real were less convicing in their match against Numancia, who took a sixth-minute lead with Juan Moreno arriving at the back post completely unmarked to head home.  Guti equalised on 18 minutes with the help of a huge deflection but Jose Barkero put Numancia back in front with a terrific 21st-minute long range effort.

The lead was shortlived as Higuain equalised for Real four minutes later and van der Vaart caught the goalkeeper off guard to put Real in front before an own goal handed Real a 4-2 lead at the interval. Moreno scored a fantastic free-kick to make it 4-3 and Real had some worrying moments in the closing stages but survived to move eighth.

Espanyol the pacesetters
Espanyol are the new league leaders following a 1-0 win over Recreativo Huelva with Luis Garcia striking six minutes from time. Garcia was expected to leave in the summer but has scored in both of their opening wins to delight coach Bartolome Marquez.  "I am really happy with Luis (Garcia) not just because of the goal but also because of his work rate," explained Marquez. Espanyol, who fell apart in the second half of last season, are now the only team with a maximum six points from the first two fixtures.

Valencia coach Unai Emery failed to win on his return to former club Almeria, where he spent two successful seasons, and his team needed a David Villa strike to salvage a 2-2 draw on Sunday. Alexis cancelled out Pablo Piatti's opener for Almeria but Alvaro Negredo enhanced his growing reputation with a great header four minutes later. Villa levelled on 68 minutes to rescue a point for Valencia, in UEFA Cup action against Maritimo on Thursday, who go second.