|Athletic Club 0-1 FC Barcelona
Barcelona made it two wins from two in their La Liga title defence after a first half goal from Ivan Rakitic gave them a hard fought 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao in a tough away game at the San Mames.
Luis Enrique preferred Samuel Umtiti in central defence over Javier Mascherano and also started Denis Suarez ahead of Andre Gomes in midfield due to the absence of captain Andres Iniesta.
Barça came close to getting the opener in the opening stages as early as the 4th minute. Messi and Rakitic did well to find Denis Suarez in space but the midfielder fired a poor shot wide in a situation when he should’ve done better. The Catalans thought they had the ball in the back off the net seconds later when Messi found Suarez with a great pass on the left, the striker passed to Arda Turan who tapped into an empty net but it was ruled out as Suarez was offside for the Messi pass.
Athletic were the next to get a chance to score when Ter Stegen made a howler of a pass to Benat but was lucky as the midfielder’s shot hit his face and the scoreline stayed at 0-0.
Luis Enrique’s men got the breakthrough on 21 minutes through Ivan Rakitic. Luis Suarez did well to pick out Arda Turan on the left and the inspired Turk pulled off a fantastic cross to find Rakitic on the far post and the Croat sent a bullet header to beat Gorka Iraizoz.
Both teams created chances as the game went on but it was Barça who came closest to score again. The Catalans engineered a counter attack with Messi moving the ball efficiently before finding Arda Turan in space on the left, Suarez was free in the middle but the Turk decided to go for goal but his shot could only meet the side netting and the game was at 1-0 after 45 minutes.
The second half started with no changes from both sides and Barça came close to increasing their lead when Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez both had shots fired wide. Substitute Raul Garcia also came close to getting the equalizer on 65 minutes for Athletic buy his shot went just an inch wide.
It could’ve been 2-0 on 70 minutes after Arda Turan did great to find Luis Suarez in the middle who made a great turn to beat his markers and set up Messi but the Argentinian fired his right-footed shot over the crossbar when he should’ve scored. Luis Enrique then brought in Andre Gomes and Javier Mascherano to replace Denis Suarez and Samuel Umtiti respectively.
Barça were missing chances after chances and Suarez was the next to miss. The Uruguay captain got a ball from Sergi Roberto and did superbly well to beat his markers with some good piece of skill but his left foot shot went wide, leaving Barça fans in huge disappointment. They were nearly punished minutes later as Benat bent a freekick astonishingly close.
Barça should have killed it off with the last kick of the game when Messi found Luis Suarez free on goal with the keeper not in goal but Luisito couldn’t bury the chance, just not his day. Barça didn’t rue missed chances though as they finished with a 1-0 win.