BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — New coach, similar disappointment for Barcelona.
Barcelona was held to a 1-1 draw at home by lowly Alavés in the debut of caretaker coach Sergi Barjuan, while Real Madrid and Sevilla both won on Saturday to leave the Catalan club even further behind in the Spanish league.
Vinícius Júnior took over the scoring duties from Karim Benzema by netting twice in Madrid's 2-1 win at 10-man Elche. Madrid, Sevilla and Real Sociedad are at the top of the standings. Sociedad can reclaim the outright lead on Sunday at home against regional rival Athletic Bilbao.
Barcelona was left in ninth and eight points adrift after four wins in 10 games.
Barjuan, a former Barcelona player who until Thursday was its reserve team coach, did not waver from the lineup and 4-3-3 formation used by Ronald Koeman, who was fired this week after one too many defeats.
Memphis Depay gave Barcelona the lead with a wonderful strike from outside the area in the 49th minute, only for Luis Rioja to dribble through the center of the hosts’ painfully passive defense and equalize three minutes later.
Barjuan could still be charge on Tuesday when Barcelona travels to Ukraine to face Dynamo Kyiv in a match that it needs to win to boost its chances of avoiding elimination from the Champions League group stage for the first time in two decades.
Barjuan aligned teenagers Gavi Páez and Nico González alongside veteran captain Sergi Busquets in midfield and gave Sergio Agüero his second straight start.
Agüero had to be substituted in the 41st after he motioned to the top of his chest and throat. After spending a minute stretched on the turf, he was able to walk off. Barjuan said that Agüero was taken to the hospital for tests
Barcelona’s Gerard Pique limped off in the 69th, adding to a list of injured players that already included Pedri González, Frenkie de Jong, Ansu Fati, Ousmane Dembelé, Ronald Araújo and Sergi Roberto.
Only 37,000 fans turned out at the 99,000-seat Camp Nou. The rainy day and the long weekend with Monday being a holiday dampened the turnout, but so did the poor results of the team.
Barjuan also gave a debut to 19-year-old Abde Ezzalzouli in the final minutes.
Once again, the 21-year-old Vinícius showed his much-improved finishing for Madrid. The double took his tally in all competitions to nine in 14 appearances this season, compared to six goals in 47 outings in 2020-21. He is the second-leading scorer in the top tier with seven goals, behind the nine goals of Benzema, who rested against Elche.
“This is thanks to the work I have been putting in since I arrived,” said Vinícius, who debuted for Madrid at age 18 after the club had secured his transfer from Brazil's Flamengo when he was 16.
Mariano Díaz played his first minutes of the season in Benzema’s place. The rarely used striker showed his reflexes were still sharp when he used his heel to knock a pass from Casemiro into the path of Vinícius for him to fire under Kiko Casilla in the 22nd.
Elche was pressing for an equalizer when Raúl Guti made a dangerous tackle on Toni Kroos and was sent off in the 63rd.
Vinícius finished Elche off 10 minutes later when he chipped the ball over Casilla from a tight angle after Luka Modric played him clear with one touch.
Elche substitute Pere Milla pulled one back with four minutes to play, but it was not enough to keep his side unbeaten at home this campaign.
Madrid lost forward Rodrygo in the opening minutes to what appeared to be a leg injury.
OSASUNA LOSES AWAY
Sevilla ended Osasuna’s undefeated road record this season with a goal in each half for a 2-0 win under heavy rain at the Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium.
Defender Diego Carlos put the hosts ahead in the 40th by heading in Ivan Rakitic’s corner. Lucas Ocampos added a second after a defensive error in the 60th.
Osasuna was left in seventh place after its first loss in six away games.
Valencia beat regional rival Villarreal 2-0.
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Joseph Wilson, The Associated Press