Madrid: Newly promoted Alaves stunned Spanish champions Barcelona by winning 2-1 at the Camp Nou as boss Luis Enrique paid a heavy price for starting Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez on the bench.
Barca now trail Real Madrid by three points at the top of the table after Cristiano Ronaldo took just five minutes to score on his return from a two-month injury layoff in a 5-2 rout of Osasuna at the Bernabeu.
Enrique made seven changes from their last outing — a 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao two weeks ago — with Messi recovering from a groin problem and Suarez rested following his exertions in World Cup qualifying with Uruguay.
“It wasn’t a good day from the start, we weren’t precise enough,” said Enrique.
“On the day we weren’t fluid in attack, we were fragile in defence. They had three shots on goal and scored two goals.”
His wholesale changes backfired as Barca failed to unlock Alaves’s mass ranks of defence before the break and went behind when Deyverson turned Kiko Femenia’s cross past Jasper Cillessen on his Barca debut.
Neymar was the only one of Barca’s star “MSN” front three to start on his first appearance of the season after leading Brazil to Olympic gold and should have levelled moments later when he failed to hit the target with a free header inside the area.
The Brazilian provided the assist as Jeremy Mathieu headed home Barca’s equaliser from a corner a minute after the break and the French defender somehow blasted wide with the goal gaping moments later.
Messi was summoned on the hour mark, but there was another shock to come for the hosts when Ibai Gomez took advantage of some awful Barca defending to put Alaves back in front.
Andres Iniesta and Suarez were also called upon as the “MSN” were reunited for the first time in four months, but even they couldn’t break the Alaves resistance as the Basques held out for their first La Liga win in a decade.
“We couldn’t find the speed or precision we needed at the right moments,” lamented Iniesta.
Ronaldo was making his first appearance since limping off in tears during the Euro 2016 final, but was handed the perfect return on a plate by Gareth Bale as the Welshman squared for him to tap into an unguarded net.
“The truth is I started a bit warily, which is normal after a serious injury, but I feel good, without pain and getting back to full fitness,” said Ronaldo. MORE (AFP)
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