Athletic Club put on a show for fans on the night of their return to San Mamés with a great game against FC Barcelona. It finished 1-1 after Memphis equalised
It was a big party at The Cathedral. The fans returned to San Mamés more than 500 days later and the players played tribute in the best possible way.
Not even an undeserved result for Athletic, a 1-1 draw against FC Barcelona, could tarnish the Lions’ footballing homage to their fans, whose absence throughout the pandemic had been sorely felt.
An unfortunate mistake, capitalised on by Memphis, left Marcelino’s side without the three points they deserved after a superb performance and Iñigo Martínez‘s thumping header.
Athletic were beyond brave in their approach. For as long as they had gas in the tank, they harassed Ronald Koeman’s side all over the pitch. Barça were completely stuck at the back, stunned by the red-and-white hurricane.
Iñaki Williams threatened at the start, although the first big chance went to Martin Braithwaite. Iñaki himself responded with a feisty effort that Neto somehow managed to save.
The Lions did not have luck on their side. Their monumental efforts deserved a goal and it should have come when Oihan Sancet smacked a shot against the crossbar.
More chances would come, Williams had an effort blocked after Athletic stole the ball high up the pitch.
Barça claimed a goal from Araujo’s bicycle kick, but Martínez Munuera had already whistled a clear foul on Mikel Balenziaga.
Marcelino roared on his Lions during his first meeting with the public. And seconds after the break, Araujo got back on the line to stop Alex Berenguer scoring from the edge of the area.
The goal seemed inevitable and it came in the 49th minute, from the umpteenth home corner. Iñigo Martínez sent Muniain’s delivery into the net with a spectacular header. Sancet then forced Neto into action with a powerful left-footed shot, but the keeper was equal to it.
Frenkie De Jong hit the crossbar and then in the 74th minute Memphis hit the Lions on the deadly counter-attack. Minutes later, the Dutch forward could have made 1-2, but fired wide.
Nonetheless, Athletic went for the win. In the 93rd minute Nico Williams forced Eric Garcia’s dismissal. The Barça defender was the last man when he brought down the defender just outside the box.
Iñigo Martínez hit the wall with the resultant free-kick. It was an emotional night, Aritz Aduriz was in attendance and received a long overdue ovation from the fans, plus there was the ceremonial kick-off in honour of the supporters.
Despite the draw, the team earned a well-earned round of applause at the final whistle. Pure red-and-white pride.