Aduriz strikes as Bilbao stun Barca; Real off to flying start - GulfToday

Aduriz strikes as Bilbao stun Barca; Real off to flying start

Gareth-Bale

Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale jumps to control the ball during their Spanish League match against Celta in Vigo on Saturday. Associated Press

Barcelona made a nightmare start to the defence of their 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 came on in the 88th, the 38-year-old striker who has announced he will retire at the end of the season.

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 were already without Lionel Messi, who sustained a calf injury during pre-season, and before kick-off confirmed they were 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.

Bilbao, who finished eighth last season, held Barca to a goalless draw in February and they were 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.

Inaki Williams, meanwhile, fresh from signing a nine-year contract last week, started fast, as he saw a rasping shot pushed wide and then skipped in behind Nelson Semedo but was again denied by Ter Stegen.

De Jong was tidy and composed but Barca were less controlled and their rhythm knocked further by Suarez departing shortly before half-time.

He had been testing his calf moments before, just as a poor header back landed perfectly in his path. Suarez shot first time but struck the post.

Raul Garcia failed to beat Ter Stegen from 10 yards while Rafinha, on for Suarez, went close, his curling effort brilliantly tipped onto the join between the post and crossbar by Unai Simon.

Ernesto Valverde put Ivan Rakitic on for Carles Alena at half-time and Rafinha again hit the post, this time freed by a cute reverse pass from Ousmane Dembele. Bilbao seemed to tire and Barca turned the screw. Rakitic fired over as three Bilbao defenders leapt in front of him but their opponents survived.

Carles Perez, the 21-year-old forward, came on for only his second league appearance but it was Bilbao’s substitute that proved decisive.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid got off to a flying start by beating Celta Vigo 3-1 away from home on Saturday with the help of a magnificent long range strike from Toni Kroos, although they had Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric sent off for a straight red card.

Karim Benzema put Madrid ahead in the 12th minute after a superb piece of wing play from Gareth Bale, who had earned a surprise starting berth due to injury to Eden Hazard after a close season period of uncertainty over his future.

Celta had an equaliser ruled out on the stroke of halftime for offside after a video review but they benefited from the use of the technology in the 56th minute when Modric was punished for raking his studs against the heel of Denis Suarez.

The hosts could not make the most of the extra man as German midfielder Kroos doubled Madrid’s lead five minutes later with an unstoppable distance strike, while substitute Lucas Vazquez added a third in the 80th after a pass from Benzema.

Celta finally managed to get a goal back in stoppage time when 18-year-old Iker Losada scored two minutes after coming off the bench to make his first team debut.

Agencies