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LaLiga 2019/20: Barcelona begin title defence with defeat to Athletic Bilbao

17 Aug 2019, 08:54 IST

Barcelona players wear a forlorn look after their stunning loss at Athletic Bilbao last n
Barcelona players wear a forlorn look after their stunning loss at Athletic Bilbao last night

In the first match of the 2019-20 LaLiga season, which got underway last night, Barcelona began the defence of their title in a disappointing fashion with a shock 1-0 loss at Athletic Bilbao.

This was Barça's first Liga defeat on the road since a 0-2 reverse at Celta Vigo in May.

Without their talismanic captain Lionel Messi who is yet to recover from a calf injury, Barcelona looked largely bereft of ideas in attack despite handing a competitive debut to forward Antoine Griezmann at San Mamés.

The new €120 million signing could have had a goal on his debut but fired wide six minutes from time.

The Catalans twice hit the post, through Luis Suarez and substitute Rafinha respectively, but failed to breach a determined Bilbao rearguard.

Their profligacy was to be punished when Bilbao's Aritz Aduriz, on the field as an 88th-minute substitute, rolled back the years with a spectacular overhead kick that beat the Barça keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the 89th minute. The home side then held on for their first Liga victory in six years against the defending champions.

The 38-year-old Aduriz in the process became only the second player ever to score in 15 successive league seasons, the first being Barcelona's Lionel Messi.

In a worrying sign of their over-reliance on Messi, the all-time highest scorer in LaLiga, the defeat at Bilbao marked the Catalan club's sixth straight game without a win in all competitions in the absence of their Argentinian captain - a span which includes a 1-1 draw at Serie A club Internazionale in the Champions League, 1-2 and 0-2 league defeats at Levante and Sevilla respectively, a goalless draw at Huesca and a 0-2 reverse at Celta Vigo.

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