World Cup winners Griezmann, Dembele lift Atletico, Barca
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — World Cup winners Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele scored second-half goals to give Atletico Madrid and Barcelona 1-0 victories over promoted teams on Saturday.
Dembele rifled in a headed pass from Sergi Roberto in the 57th minute to help defending champion Barcelona triumph at Valladolid and secure a second victory in as many Spanish league games this season.
Griezmann netted with a similar one-touch strike, sweeping home a ball headed forward by Stefan Savic as Atletico beat visiting Rayo Vallecano.
Dembele only managed four goals in 23 appearances during an injury-shortened first season with Barcelona following his then club-record transfer of 105 million euros (then $124 million) in 2017.
The 21-year-old forward now has two goals— both winners— in three matches this campaign. He also struck late to give Barcelona a 2-1 victory against Sevilla in the Spanish Super Cup.
Griezmann bagged his first goal for Atletico since helping France to the world title in June and July, when he netted four times along with Kylian Mbappe at the tournament in Russia.
He failed to score in Atletico's 4-2 win against Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup earlier this month and in the 1-1 draw at Valencia in the Spanish league last week.
Griezmann, 27, turned down an offer to join Barcelona this summer after Atletico finished runner-up to the Catalan club last season.
"I am very happy here and I am going to give my all for this club and my teammates," Griezmann said. "They did all they could to keep me here and now I have to return that love they showed me with hard work on the pitch."
Seeing his Barcelona side stifled in attack by a feisty Valladolid team, coach Ernesto Valverde made a tactical change that proved the key in undoing the hosts' defense.
Valverde switched from a 4-3-3 system to 4-4-2 in the second half, shifting Dembele from the left to the other flank in front of right back Sergi Roberto.
The move paid off when Luis Suarez lofted a crossfield pass for Sergi Roberto to chase and head back for Dembele to drive home.
The video assistant referee (VAR), new to La Liga this season, correctly disallowed a second goal by Suarez for offside.
Valladolid pressed in the final moments and its fans cheered what they thought was an equalizer by Sergio Gontan in injury time until the VAR confirmed that he too was offside.
The match at Valladolid was not helped by the poor state of the turf at the Jose Zorrilla Stadium, which had been replaced four days earlier.
Passes went astray because of the bumps in the pitch, players lost their footing, and shots took unexpected trajectories.
A perplexed Lionel Messi appeared to look down at the grass after one of his free kicks sailed high over the bar, while a flustered Ivan Rakitic threw his arms up in frustration after a ball passed to him leapt off the turf.
"This was shameful, there was a risk that players could be hurt," Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said of the pitch. "I hope those responsible for this take action because it was pitiful."
RAKITIC STAYS PUT
Rakitic said after the win that he is going to stay at Barcelona amid speculation that Paris Saint-Germain wants to lure him away.
"I am staying put in Barcelona," the Croatia midfielder said. "There is no better place in the world to be."
A goalless draw between Real Betis and Alaves left both sides still seeking a win after two matches.