A Memphis Depay rocket shot salvaged a point for Barcelona in San Mames against Athletic Bilbao.
For 75 minutes they missed Lionel Messi far more than they did last week in the first game of the season but the man brought in this summer, and now charged with trying to fill the void, unleashed an unstoppable shot that nearly took off the roof of young Athletic keeper Julen Agirrezabala’s net.
The former Manchester United forward was Barcelona’s best player last week and he stood up again when his team needed him in a far more difficult second game of the campaign.
Memphis Depay celebrates after his superb goal pulled Barcelona level against Athletic Bilbao
Although Barcelona had some difficult moments Depay found the net in spectacular fashion
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique had to be substituted in the first half because of an injury
Athletic had enjoyed the better chances in the first half although only after Barcelona missed the perfect opportunity to take an early lead.
Memphis danced around Iñigo Martinez on the byline but when he crossed to Martin Braithwaite the Dane leaned back and blazed over.
The Athletic Bilbao players celebrate after Inigo Martinez’s header put them in the lead
Barcelona defender Eric Garcia was sent off in the closing stages for fouling Nico Williams
Iñaki Williams responded holding off Eric Garcia and poking a shot that Neto had to push out for a corner. Oihan Sancet then rattled the crossbar from Iker Muniain’s cross as the 10,000 Athletic supporters back inside San Mames after a year’s absence made themselves heard.
Athletic forward Inaki Williams caused numerous problems for Barcelona’s defenders
Athletic Bilbao: Agirrezabala; Lekue, Vivian, I. Martinez, Balenziaga; Berenguer (Morcillo 82), Dani Garcia (Zarraga 82), Vencedor (Vesga 67), Muniain (N. Williams 76); Sancet (Raul Garcia 67), I. Williams
Subs: De Marcos, Nunez, Villalibre, Serrano, Ezkieta
Goal: Inigo Martinez 50
Booked: Inigo Martinez
Barcelona: Neto; Dest (Emerson 82), Pique (Araujo 31), Garcia, Alba; Busquets, De Jong, Pedri (Roberto 62); Braithwaite (Demir 62), Griezmann, Depay
Subs: Pena, Manaj, Gonzalez, Puig, Balde, Gavi, Tenas, Lenglet
Goal: Depay 75
Booked: Alba, Garcia
Sent off: Garcia
Barcelona keeper Neto looked nervous and Athletic pressed him every time the ball was played back to him. He sent one shaky pass straight out to Sancet and when he teed-up up Williams the striker would have scored had Frenkie de Jong not screeched across to cut out the danger and block the shot.
Martinez was then harshly yellow carded for a late challenge on Pedri. He won the ball cleanly without appearing to raise his foot as he slid in. From the free-kick Memphis’ shot was comfortably taken by Agirrezabala – one of the many Messi defecits that free-kicks are no longer like penalties for Barcelona.
Athletic’s only problem was their age-old one that they don’t have a finisher and yet another chance went begging when Williams crossed and Unai Vencedor failed to finish.
Neto was still all at sea and Barcelona’s wobbly rearguard was further hit when Gerard Pique hobbled off to be replaced by Ronald Araujo. The Uruguayan was immediately busy as Athletic cut through the right side of defence only for Williams to get under the header from Alex Berenguer’s cross. He missed Athletic’s next chance to sending his shot into the side netting from Iñigo Lekue’s cross.
Having not taken several chances from close range Williams went for goal from long distance catching his volley well but not beating Neto.
Araujo then scored with an overhead kick but it was ruled out harshly for Braithwaite’s challenge to win the header that led to the chance.
The second half started as most of the first half had played out. Williams ran in behind Eric Garcia who he had bullied in the first half and when the ball came out to Berenguer his shot was goalbound but Araujo cleared off the line.
When Athletic took the lead on 50 minutes it was predictably not from open play. Martinez climbed above Araujo and glanced the ball past Neto from Muniain’s corner.
Dest wriggled free in the penalty area and tested Agirezabala but his shot was not as good as his dribble inside the box. Barça were taking a step forward and leaving space in behind.
Berenguer ran into that open ground and released Williams who was charged down by Neto who had been so quick off his line. 18-year-old Austrian winger Yusuf Demir came on for Pedri who after 76 games since the start of last season will now start a two-week break. It was in the 76th minute that Barcelona got their equalizer. Memphis thundered the ball into the roof the net cutting in from the left.
Sergio Dest attempts to push forward for Barcelona while being pursued by Iker Muniain
Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona have now taken four points out of a possible six so far this season
Barcelona had come close moments before when De Jong lobbed a shot onto the cross-bar. But where one of Ronald Koeman’s Dutch internationals had failed the other succeeded.
Memphis could have turned a point into three with five minutes left but this time he screwed his shot across the face of goal and past the far post. Barcelona could also have thrown the game away at the end. Eric Garcia pulled down Nico Williams and was sent off but from the free-kick Berenguer couldn’t produce the winner.
Recap as Sportsmail’s JEORGE BIRD provided live La Liga coverage of Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona.