MADRID (AFP) - Atletico Madrid failed to get their La Liga title bid off to a winning start, as Rodrigo earned Valencia a 1-1 draw at the Mestalla Stadium on Monday (Aug 20).
Angel Correa gave Diego Simeone's visitors a 26th-minute lead, but Rodrigo struck in the second half for the home team and last season's runners-up Atletico failed to find a winner.
There are high hopes at the Wanda Metropolitano that Atletico can muster a serious title challenge, after keeping their key players in the close season and claiming an impressive extra-time win over city rivals Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup last week.
But they were given a tough test to start the campaign at a strong Valencia outfit who will be playing in the Champions League this season for the first time since 2015 after finishing fourth.
Simeone gave a La Liga debut to Thomas Lemar, who joined from Monaco for 72 million euros (S$113 million) in July, but the French World Cup winner struggled to make an impression and was hauled off in the 63rd minute.
Atletico moved ahead midway through the first period with a wonderfully-crafted goal.
Antoine Griezmann showed great skill to cut inside and slip a defence-splitting reverse pass to Correa, which Argentinian winger collected in his stride before firing low past home goalkeeper Neto.
Saul Niguez wasted an excellent chance to make it two shortly after half-time when he shot wide, and in the 56th minute when Rodrigo lashed home right-footed after controlling Daniel Wass's looping header on his chest.
The 27-year-old scored 19 goals for Valencia last season to earn a Spain call-up for the World Cup and his club will need him to continue that form after sending Italian striker Simone Zaza on loan to Torino.
Valencia had opportunities to snatch all three points, but the closest they came to a second goal was when former Arsenal centre-back Gabriel's header hit the post with 23 minutes remaining.