Sports Desk, Nov 20 (EFE).- Barcelona icon Xavi Hernandez’s tenure as coach of the Catalan club got under way Saturday with a 1-0 triumph over Espanyol, while defending LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid beat Osasuna by the same score and Sevilla took provisional possession of first place despite dropping points.
The Blaugrana were not that impressive, but the crowd at Camp Nou reveled in the return of Xavi and supporters will be hoping that Saturday’s result is an omen, as the legendary Johan Cruyff’s first game as Barça coach ended in a 2-0 win against Espanyol.
The sides went to the dressing rooms at half-time deadlocked 0-0 after an opening 45 minutes where Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez turned aside efforts by Memphis Depay, Gavi and Sergio Busquets.
In the first minute of the second half, Depay went down after a challenge by Leandro Cabrera and the referee pointed to the spot.
Espanyol erupted in protests, but the referee was unmoved and Depay converted. Raul de Tomas hit the post twice on chances to equalize in the last 10 minutes of regulation.
Barcelona improved to 20 points and are sixth in the table by virtue of a better goal difference than surprising Rayo Vallecano.
Hosting 9th-place Osasuna at the Wanda Metropolitano, Atleti needed a goal from Felipe with three minutes left in regulation to claim all 3 points and remain in touch with the clubs ahead of them in the title race.
With 26 points from 13 matches, the Colchoneros are fourth, 2 points off the pace of leaders Sevilla, who had to come from behind twice Saturday against Alaves to secure a 2-2 draw.
Ivan Rakitic’s goal in stoppage time boosted Sevilla to 28 points, the same as Real Sociedad but the Andalusians are ahead in the standings on goal difference.
Real Madrid, now third with 27 points, can vault to first place with a win Sunday at 17th-place Granada. EFE