Athletic falls on 71 minutes because of a goal from Rakitic but does not give Barça an easy ride
The days when Fútbol Club Barcelona rolled over Athletic Club are over. The Lions have beaten them twice under the management of Gaizka Garitano this season. They have now only lost one game at Camp Nou because of a goal from Rakitic on 71 minutes. 251 minutes in three matches is the time they needed to score against the Red and Whites.
It was an honourable defeat and we put in a good overall performance. The only thing we could not do was nestle the ball inside the goal. The red-and-white side deserved to have picked up a point. If we want to catch the train for Europe, we must defeat Mallorca.
As Gaizka Garitano had said the day before, Athletic had a plan to stop Fútbol Club Barcelona: they relied on fresh legs -being Núñez, Unai López, Williams and Córdoba the only players who had played against Betis-, shared the high press and were able to recover defensively when Messi attacked.
A perfect cage that worked wonders in the first half, when the lions -counting on nine footballers from Lezama- put up a good fight against a team made up of international players.
In fact, they were able to scare Ter Stegen on up to four occasions with two crosses from Unai López (one headed by Yeray over the bar), another one from Sancet to Williams and the last from Lekue to Iñaki. Unai Simón had the most peaceful evening one can have at Camp Nou, only slightly bothered by Luis Suárez.
There was still a complete second part to play but we were hungry for claiming a victory, fighting back with veteran players such as De Marcos and Balenziaga, and a promising Sancet.
In the second half, however, Barça made things harder. Simón excelled with a save from Griezmann but in their second clear chance Rakitic netted the goal that broke the Red and Whites’ expectations.
The Croatian footballer could not have chosen a worse time to score his first goal of the season. It was a real blow, but the Biscay-based side never give up.
Intimidated by Ter Stegen, Raúl García missed a fine cross sent by Balenciaga and Núñez headed a ball over the bar again. The hosts’ team just had a clear chance thanks to Ansu Fati in injury time, when he hit the post after getting a ball Simón had cleared from Arturo Vidal.