Athletic Club 0-1 Barcelona: Luis Suarez strike seals three points for defending champions
La Liga champions Barcelona played their inaugural league match against Athletic Club on Sunday as they began their title defense with a 1-0 win against the Basque side. They lost their chance of a sextuple after an embarrassing defeat against Athletic Club in the Super Cup where the Catalans lost 4-0 in the first league and managed to finish the second leg in a tie.
Gerard Pique was not available for this game as he was sent off for insulting the referee in the second-leg of the super cup fixture. Mascherano and Thomas Vermaelen were the represent the back-line with Dani Alves and Jordi Alba as usual were in charge of the flanks. Rafinha replaced Neymar in Barcelona’s attacking trident that consisted of Messi and Suarez, while Rakitic, Busquets, and Iniesta formed the block in the midfield
The visitors found it hard to get into their stride as Athletic Club did their best to shut down the Catalan giants. Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi almost linked up at the end of the 11th minute, but Suarez’s shot was easily blocked away. In the 15th minute, Athletic's Sabin took a shot which fell into Bravo's hand comfortably.
Dani Alves fell to the pitch after incurring an injury. Sergi Roberto who is a midfielder by trade replaced Alves in the 20th minute, as the Brazilain was unable to continue. Barcelona applied pressure on the opposition but found it hard to convert as Messi and Rafinha were being cut-off by Athletic’s defense.
Barcelona were given a golden opportunity when Suarez was fouled inside the penalty area, but it was all to waste as Messi’s penalty attempt was stopped by Iraizoz. Barcelona tried their best to get back into the game before the half-time mark, but none of the attempts struck the mark.
Both the sides were at a standstill at half-time with neither able to gain the edge over the other, but a few minutes later Luis Suarez struck a volley and gave his team the advantage. Sergi Robert’s almost gets his name on the goal sheet as well, but his shot struck the frame and was behind for a goal kick.
Barcelona’s attack never eased after that, as they pushed Athletic club on their heels. Barcelona who were clearly intent on redeeming themselves after the 4-0 defeat, but Bilbao pushed on for a late equalizer but could not break down Barca’s defense as Enrique’s side picked up all three points and began their season in style.