Real Madrid held to 1-1 draw by Valencia in opener


BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -Real Madrid stumbled to a 1-1 draw at home against Valencia in the opening match of its Spanish league title defense on Sunday.

Madrid appeared set to pick up where it had left off last season when Gonzalo Higuain scored in the 10th minute, but Jonas leveled for Valencia in the 42nd to give coach Mauricio Pellegrino a hard-earned draw on his debut.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who set a club record with 46 league goals last season, was uncharacteristically subdued and failed to manage a shot on goal.

"We knew it was going to be tough because Valencia has played well here before," said Madrid defender Raul Albiol, who formerly played for Valencia. "We have to stay positive and look forward."

Also, Real Betis defeated Athletic Bilbao in a 5-3 shootout at San Mames stadium after the Basques had fought back from a three-goal deficit to draw level.

Later, Tito Vilanova debuts as Barcelona's head coach against Real Sociedad, and Atletico Madrid plays Levante.

Madrid dictated the pace early on and Higuain, starting ahead of Karim Benzema, soon put his team ahead.

Higuain scored on the third attempt after goalkeeper Diego Alves made back-to-back saves to deny the Argentina striker. International teammate Angel di Maria lofted a pass behind Valencia's passive defense, Higuain pulled it in and blasted the second rebound into the back of the net.

Just when Valencia appeared clueless in attack, Brazil forward Jonas leveled for the visitors with a header, beating three Madrid players to Tino Costa's in-swinging free kick. Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas and defender Pepe collided in an attempt to reach the ball, with both lying prone on the pitch for a few moments before restarting play with both looking groggy. Albiol replaced Pepe at halftime.

Jonas' goal was Valencia's first in its last five league visits to Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

The score level, Valencia regained its composure and succeeded in slowing down a Madrid attack that last season set a league scoring record with 121 goals.

Madrid coach Jose Mourinho sent on Benzema for midfielder Lass Diarra, looking to spark his team with 30 minutes to go.

Higuain and Di Maria almost linked up again in the 65th when Di Maria lobbed a perfectly placed ball to his teammate, only to see Higuain's header hit the crossbar.

That miss was as close as the champions came to scoring again with Valencia defending well down the stretch.

At San Mames, Betis won in an electrifying match.

Betis sliced Bilbao apart in the first 45 minutes, with Ruben Castro, Jorge Molina and Benat Etxebarria all scoring to give the visitors a 3-0 advantage by halftime.

Oscar de Marcos began Bilbao's comeback in the 47th, and defender Mikel San Jose scored with identical headers off cornersin the 67th and 76th minutes.

But the game swung back in Betis' favor for good when substitute Alejandro Pozuelo volleyed home in the 80th, and Molina sealed the result six minutes later with a nifty chip.

On Saturday, 16-year-old Fabrice Olinga became the youngest player to score in the Spanish league, giving Malaga a 1-0 win at promoted Celta Vigo. Tomer Hemed scored twice as Mallorca beat Espanyol 2-1, and Sevilla downed Getafe 2-1.

On Monday, it's: Deportivo Coruna vs. Osasuna, Rayo Vallecano vs. Granada, and Zaragoza vs. Valladolid.

Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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