Memphis Depay’s first goal for Barcelona secured a 1-1 draw for Ronald Koeman’s side against Athletic Bilbao at San Mames on Saturday.
Barca started life without Lionel Messi – who joined Paris Saint-Germain earlier this month – with a 4-2 win over Real Sociedad last weekend, but they were well off the pace for much of the clash with Marcelino’s side.
The hosts had seven shots to Barca’s three in a lively first half and they deservedly went ahead five minutes after the restart when Inigo Martinez steered a header past Neto.
Former Lyon forward Depay ensured a share of the spoils 15 minutes from full-time, though, lashing home from an acute angle moments after Frenkie de Jong had hit the crossbar.
Eric Garcia was then sent off in the final moments of the match as Barca dropped their first points of the new season.
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) August 21, 2021
Martin Braithwaite squandered a glorious opportunity to put Barca ahead after six minutes, the Denmark international inexplicably blazing over from 10 yards after Depay’s cross was deflected into his path.
That miss should have been punished five minutes later, but Oihan Sancet’s instinctive effort crashed back off Neto’s crossbar.
Inaki Williams headed over from inside the six-yard box shortly after the half-hour mark, while Ronald Araujo – who had earlier replaced the injured Gerard Pique – saw an overhead kick ruled out for a foul by Braithwaite in the build-up.
Araujo was in the thick of the action at the start of the second period, acrobatically clearing Alex Berenguer’s strike off the line, but he was powerless to stop Martinez storming in to head home Iker Muniain’s corner in the 50th minute.
Neto pawed away Sancet’s powerful strike soon after as Athletic continued to press, before De Jong crashed a sumptuous half-volley against the crossbar.
His Netherlands team-mate was not to be denied, though, Depay thundering an effort past Julen Agirrezabala from a tight angle to secure a point for Koeman’s below-par side, who had Garcia dismissed deep into stoppage time for bringing down Nico Williams as he bore down on goal.
What does it mean? Barca lucky to scrape a point
The win over Real Sociedad put a spring in Barca’s step after the crushing loss of Messi, but Koeman’s men were given a reality check by a spirited Athletic outfit, who will feel hard done by to not have claimed all three points. Despite just 33 per cent possession, the hosts carved out 16 shots on goal – a fact that will concern Koeman.
De Jong shines for visitors
Depay will steal the headlines after his fine goal, but his compatriot was comfortably Barca’s best player. De Jong made more key passes (two) and gained possession more times (eight) than any visiting player, while he was unlucky not to score with a fine looping strike in the second half.
Braithwaite reverts to type
Braithwaite equalled his tally from the entirety of last season with a brace against La Real on the opening day of the season, but he was well off the pace against Athletic. His early miss was a shocker, while he had the fewest touches (18) of any starting player and was hauled off in the 62nd minute.
Key Opta Stats: History for Demir
– At the age of 18 years and 80 days, Yusuf Demir became the youngest non-Spanish player to make their league debut for Barcelona since Messi on October 2004 (17y 114d).
– Only Real Madrid (16) and Sevilla (11) have hit the post more times against Barcelona than Athletic (9) in LaLiga since the 2003-04 season.
– Pique has been subbed off in six of his last 13 games as a starter in LaLiga with Barcelona, as many times as in his 111 previous league matches in the starting XI.
– Martinez scored his 20th goal in LaLiga, but it was his first against Barcelona in the competition.
– Barca conceded 13 corner kicks against Athletic. They have conceded more than that only once in the competition since January 2004, allowing 15 in a match against Levante in December 2018.
Athletic travel to Celta Vigo in LaLiga next Saturday, while Barca host Getafe at Camp Nou a day later.