Maiden league win eludes Guardiola

Barca stumble again as the Catalan hero finds life tough at top after the side's 1-1 draw with Racing Santander at the Nou Camp.

Barcelona's Cameroonian Samuel Eto'o (L) gestures during the Liga football match Barcelona versus Racing de Santander at the New Camp staduim in Barcelona on September 13, 2008. AFP PHOTO/JOSEP LAGO *** Local Caption ***  287203-01-08.jpg
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It would be utterly grotesque if the Barcelona president Joan Laporta ponders picking up a pistol any time soon, and pointing it at Josep Guardiola's head, but one would understand why his trigger finger may get a little twitchy. At such straining outposts, funny results can do funny things to the mind. The statistics will tell you that the 1-1 draw with Racing Santander at the Nou Camp on Saturday provides Barcelona with their worst start to a league season in 35 years. It leaves them with one point from a possible six after losing at Numancia.

Football obeys no law of logic, and that can be scarily true in Barcelona. Frank Rijkaard broke with tradition in seeing out five years as Barcelona coach, a lifetime in such a club's years, but Carles Rexach, Louis Van Gaal and Radomir Antic survived only a short period of months before being ousted before Rijkaard's elevation to the post. At the outset of the Spanish season and Barcelona's noble bid to reclaim a national title won twice by Real Madrid over the past two years, the Catalan club find themselves marooned on the starting line.

If they become further isolated in forthcoming weeks, the mayhem that will drift over the Nou Camp may force Laporta to start seeking out bodies to toss overboard and lighten the burden. Invariably, he will look to Guardiola to begin to justify his role as the club's head coach. At such times, Guardiola's lack of experience, this is his first senior remit, and exposure as a mainstream manager must count against him. It has not reached the stage of dismissals yet, but the locals do not take well to failing at home. The France striker Thierry Henry was omitted from Barcelona's team, but they appeared destined to revel in the warmth of three points.

The Argentina striker Lionel Messi came on as a substitute to score a penalty with 19 minutes remaining, but within six minutes the visiting side restored parity when Jonathan Pereira scored. A stoical Laporta is supportive of his coach. "This is the path to follow. With this intensity, which we haven't seen for some time, and the quality that we have," said Laporta. "We've not been able to do it this time, but another day we will, because playing with this intensity the goals have to come."

Guardiola is optimistic life will improve. "I wouldn't criticise my players for anything because they have been better," he said. "I'm very happy with the attitude of the players. I know the draw is bad, but I don't have anything more to lament than the result." Sevilla recovered from 2-0 down to beat Sporting Gijon to move top of La Liga after an impressive 4-3 home win. Newly promoted Sporting raced into a two-goal lead after just 20 minutes but a Frederic Kanoute double and goals from Ernesto Chevanton and Enzo Maresca cancelled out Mate Bilic's hat-trick.

Atletico Madrid's bright start to the season came to an end as they lost 2-1 to a Real Valladolid side reduced to 10 men. Angel Vivar Dorado and a Javier Baraja penalty hoisted Vallodolid two goals clear after the opening 30 minutes with Sergio Aguero scoring at after half-time. Pedro Lopez received two yellow cards to be sent off before his side scored their second goal. dkane@thenational.ae