Nightmare start to Barcelona’s title defence

Suarez hobbled off in the 37th minute with what looked like a calf injury before Aduriz came on to score a late winner for Athletic Bilbao

Barcelona made a nightmare start to the defence of its La Liga title on Friday by losing Luis Suarez to injury and then losing 1-0 to Athletic Bilbao, after a sensational late volley from substitute Aritz Aduriz.

Suarez hobbled off in the 37th minute with what looked like a calf injury before Aduriz— the 38-year-old striker who has announced he will retire at the end of the season —came on in the 88th minute.

This was a spectacular start to the finale as Aduriz threw himself into the air and acrobatically volleyed past Marc-Andre ter Stegen to send San Mames wild on La Liga’s opening night.

Barca was already without Lionel Messi, who sustained a calf injury during pre-season, and before kick-off confirmed it was about to lose Philippe Coutinho, a loan deal “agreed in principle” with Bayern Munich, according to the club’s director Guillermo Amor.

Suarez will undergo tests on Tuesday to diagnose the length of his absence but Messi’s return, and perhaps negotiations for Paris Saint-Germain striker Neymar, might assume added urgency during his absence.

Antoine Griezmann will be expected to step up too, but after joining from Atletico Madrid in July, he endured an underwhelming debut. Coutinho is evidence of the need for time to adjust.

Bilbao, which finished eighth last season, held Barca to a goalless draw in February and it was good value for another point until Aduriz intervened.

He has scored more than 200 goals in his 20-year career but perhaps none as memorable as this one. La Liga’s first of the season may even prove to be its best.

For Barca, there was at least the consolation of an excellent performance from Frenkie de Jong, also making his debut in place of Sergio Busquets.

de Jong fully justified his place with a serene display, seamlessly linking midfield to attack and dictating tempo with a maturity well beyond his 22 years.

By contrast, Griezmann never really settled after a nervous start, allowing a simple pass to slip under his foot before hacking late at the shin of Unai Lopez.

Source: Read Full Article