Starting the game, Barcelona were coming up against a familiar opponent. The Catalan club have already played Athletic twice this season thanks to the Supercopa and the wounds from that defeat are still fresh.
Therefore you would expect a lively start from Barça as they look to seek revenge but the opening stages were all a bit tame. Athletic were smart about absorbing the early Barcelona pressure and neither side registered a shot on target during the opening minutes. The high press of the Basques succeeded in limiting Barcelona's ability to create clear-cut chances.
With an already thread-bare back four, Luis Enrique's selection headache got a little worse on the 18th minute mark. Dani Alves looked to overextended his groin in a challenge and it became quickly apparent that the Brazilian wouldn't be able to continue. With no recognised full back on the bench, Sergi Roberto was the man asked to do the job he had experimented with during pre-season. Much to the amusement of some but it was Roberto who was involved in the next Barça attack.
The midfielder-turned-right back chased after a ball and managed to get a cross in. The ball found Lionel Messi who had effort ricochet off Elustondo's arm. Replays showed that the Bilbao defender made no real attempt to get his arm out of the way and a penalty should've been awarded. But replays showed that even further back, the ball from Roberto that started the attack was well over the line and should've been given as a goal kick.
Four minutes later and it was Atheltic's turn to have a go at goal. A cheap free kick was conceded and Beñat stepped up, looking to deliver a ball that Aduriz would have a chance with. He did exactly that and the striker's header was just wide of the Barça net.
Perhaps still feeling aggrieved by the penalty that got away, Barça were awarded a spot kick just ten minutes after the initial appeal. Luis Suárez controlled the ball excellently before turning back away from goal. As he did so, Elustondo kicked the ball and also a little of Suárez but enough for the Uruguayan to go down. It looked a soft decision but it was given and Lionel Messi stepped up.
In truth, the effort was a terrible one. Messi went for placement but it didn't have the power or the precision to get past Gorka Iraizoz as the keeper dived to his right to keep it out. Questions now surely have to be asked about Messi being the first choice spot kick taker having experienced a torrid time from twelve yards.
Sergi Roberto continued to shine in his unconventional right back role. A long ball was excellently taken which allowed him to get space in the Bilbao box. He found Suárez who was denied by Iraizoz in Barça's attempt to open the scoring.
The teams went in level having not produced the most exciting half for their opening league fixture.
The second half started in the same vein as the first. Neither side creating any great chances bu both looking like they could find the net. However, it was Barcelona who did find the net for the first time. Jordi Alba burst down the left wing before volleying a ball into the box. Luis Suárez was inexplicably left wide open and a striker of his calibre gobbled up the chance. Lashing the ball past Iraizoz to make it 1-0 for the away side.
Putting in an impressive display, Sergi Roberto was again bombarding up the field. This time, he was found by Rafinha before rifling a shot against the bar. Barça were searching for the second and it was looking like they would need it with Athletic threatening on the counterattack.
It was turning into more and more of a battle than a football games and Barcelona were relying on their industrial players to see them through. Ivan Rakitić was cutting out chances while both Sergio Busquets and Andrés Iniesta were in the wars. The former did have to retire early on a stretcher, looking to have caused damage to his ankle. Marc Bartra replaced him in a move that furthered jumbled the Barça defence.
The game settled down with a single Lionel Messi chance coming before the final whistle. He dribbled his way through the defence but the shot was tame and easily saved. The match ended and Barcelona earned a tough opening three points.
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