A summer of promise and massive reinforcement at the Camp Nou has yet to pay dividends in Barcelona after the Spanish giants could only muster a scoreless draw to kick off the new La Liga season in Catalonia.
Xavi’s matchday XI included debutant summer acquisitions Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, and Andreas Christensen, with Franck Kessié also earning his first appearance for the club as a second-half substitute in the 72nd minute when he replaced club starlet Pedri.
Despite the match data revealing that Barcelona was expectedly dominant in front of the home support, Rayo Vallecano left it all on the Camp Nou pitch to earn a spirited point away from home and deserve just credit for a defensive performance under manager Andoni Iraola.
The former Athletic Club right-back has only been in management for four years but has already made a name for himself going into this third season at the helm of Vallecano, and set a La Liga record tonight in the 0-0 draw, becoming the first manager in league history to keep a clean sheet in his first three managerial fixtures against Barcelona.
With Rayo owning just 32% of the ball and mustering a paltry four shots all night, it was never a moment to suggest that Iraola - a quality defender in his day to the tune of over 500 appearances for Bilbao in twelve seasons in Basque Country - would have put faith in a more open approach against a Barcelona outfit that was intent on laying down a marker before bitter rivals Real Madrid clash with Almeria tomorrow night.
Iraola can also thank North Macedonian international keeper Stole Dimitrievski after the 28-year-old registered five saves in what may well be described as an unorthodox yet effective performance in goal for Los Franjirrojos, helping the capital club to a very credible point on a night where many expected an attack-heavy Barcelona team to put them to the sword.