BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Robert Lewandowski endured a frustrating debut for Barcelona on Saturday when Rayo Vallecano held on for a 0-0 draw at Camp Nou in their Spanish league opener.
Lewandowski and his new teammates were kept well in check by Rayo, which also proved dangerous on the break and was only stopped from scoring by the goalkeeping of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
More than 81,000 fans turned out to see the new-look Barcelona that club president Joan Laporta built after mortgaging the future of the club to get some much-needed cash to sign Lewandowski and four other new players.
But the biggest applause Lewandowski heard from the crowd was to show their appreciation for his hustle on defense late in the match with Barcelona stymied in attack. The closest the former Bayern Munich star went to scoring was a header flicked well over the bar in the first half.
Barcelona finished with 10 men after Sergio Busquets got a second booking in stoppage time when he swung his arm into the face of Rayo substitute Radamel Falcao. Falcao then had what looked to be a winner waived away for offside as Rayo went close to claiming a third straight win over Barcelona after it stunned the Catalan club twice last season.
Lewandowski, winger Raphinha and defender Andreas Christensen, who also joined Barcelona this summer, all made Xavi Hernández’s starting 11. The three players along with fellow newcomer Franck Kessié and the recently re-signed Ousmane Dembélé and Sergi Roberto were only declared eligible to play by the Spanish league on Friday after Barcelona sold yet another stake in its in-house production company to improve its troubled financial balance.
The delicate state of Barcelona’s finances meant that it was unable to register Jules Koundé, its top defensive signing, in time for the season opener.
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Joseph Wilson, The Associated Press