Athletic officially kicked off the 2019/2020 season on Friday night. The Lions welcomed reigning champions Barcelona to San Mamés and showed no fear whatsoever. Leading up to the game several players shared that they understood the difficulty of getting a good result but were confident in the team’s ability. Athletic’s willingness to face Barcelona head-on would lead to a truly spectacular performance.
The Basques would get the first chance of the game just 14 minutes in when Iñaki Williams was played over the top of the Barcelona defense. Gerard Piqué forced the striker to take a bad angle and Williams saw his shot saved by the goalkeeper. On the other end, Athletic’s organized defense created constant problems for Barcelona who weren’t able to string together passes.
Barcelona would eventually get their first promising change at the half-hour mark when a back pass from Unai López went straight to Luis Suarez already in the box. Unai Simón rushed out and the Barcelona striker put his shot off the post. Minutes later Ander Capa would be played into the box and found Raúl García who was off balance and wasn’t able to get enough power on a shot to beat the goalkeeper.
Luis Suarez would eventually have to leave the game which saw Rafinha come on for the Catalans which actually strengthened their attack. Barcelona would have another chance that was saved off the crossbar by Simón before the two sides went into the break still scoreless and looking to break the deadlock.
Ernesto Valverde responded by bringing on Ivan Rakitic to start the second half and Barcelona would start to take more control of the game. Simón made another great save on a shot from Rafina before Williams has another effort from a tight angle that hit the side netting. In the 65th minute, Oihan Sancet was brought on for Oscar De Marcos to make his Athletic debut and was soon followed by Beñat and Aritz Aduriz in the final moments of the game.
Bringing on Aduriz for Williams would prove to be the deciding factor in the match. Mere seconds after coming on the striker would bicycle a cross from Capa into the back of the net to give Athletic a late 1-0 lead and deserved win. The San Mamés roared as the Lions took all three points off of Barcelona with a fantastic performance and now the team will start preparing for next weekend’s trip to Getafe.