Messi-less Barça beaten again in Bilbao

Barcelona slipped to a second consecutive defeat for the first time since April 2012 as they lost for the first time in the league this season 1-0 away to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Messi-less Barça beaten again in Bilbao
Barcelona's defender Martin Montoya (L) vies with Athletic Bilbao's midfielder Mikel Rico. Photo: Rafa Rivas/AFP

Barcelona had suffered their first defeat under coach Gerardo Martino against Ajax in midweek and Athletic appeared to learn from the Dutch champions' approach as, without the injured Lionel Messi, Barça struggled to impose themselves on the game.

Iker Muniain slotted home the only goal of the game from Markel Susaeta's cross 20 minutes from time as a third straight win moved the Basques into fourth.

The Catalans remain top of La Liga on goal difference only from Atletico Madrid with Real Madrid now just three points behind the leaders.

And the champions were left to complain about referee Juan Martinez Manuera's decision to only show Ander Iturraspe a yellow card when he pulled back Neymar as the Brazilian bore down on goal with the score still at 0-0.

"They are a god team and it is difficult when we have chances and don't take them," said midfielder Sergio Busquets.

"And yes the referee didn't do his job well either because it is a red card and that made it more difficult.

"I think that would have changed the game. He was through on the goalkeeper, I don't know where (Mikel) Balenziaga was but it was a clear one-on-one and for me it is a red card."

On top of Messi's absence, Barça were also missing Victor Valdes and Dani Alves and Busquets insisted they have to concentrate on not losing any more ground in the two league games that remain before the winter break with Messi and Valdes due back in January.

"We shouldn't be alarmed. We need to keep going, win the two games between now and the end of the year and learn from the mistakes we have made."

Neymar had Barcelona's best effort of the first-half with a curling effort that was brilliantly tipped over the bar by Gorka Iraizoz.

However, it was the hosts that had the better of the chances before the break as Muniain fluffed his lines after Andoni Iraola's cross was deflected perfectly into his path before Gorka Toquero headed wide when unmarked from Muniain's cross.

Martino's men improved after the break as Athletic's pressing wavered slightly and Neymar should have given them the lead when he raced onto Cesc Fabregas's fine through ball but slipped as he shot and the ball sailed well over.

Barça were then left infuriated at Manuera for not sending-off Iturraspe when he pulled back Neymar as the Brazilian was played in on goal.

Neymar pulled himself up to take the resulting free-kick which curled inches wide of Iraizoz's right-hand post.

However, it was Athletic who finally made the breakthrough when Ander Herrera robbed the ball deep inside Barça territory and fed Susaeta, whose cross from the right was turned home by Muniain for his third goal of the season.

Toquero then passed up a great chance to make it 2-0 as he headed straight at Jose Manuel Pinto from Muniain's inch-perfect cross.

Martino surprisingly withdrew Xavi and Andres Iniesta for Sergi Roberto and Pedro Rodriguez respectively in his search for an equalizer.

But Athletic saw the game out comfortably to register their first win over Barcelona since 2006.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?

Around 10,000 people demonstrated against the expansion of the El Prat airport in Barcelona on Sunday.

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?
People march during a demonstration against the expansion of the Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Several ecological and agricultural organisations, have demanded that the expansion be stopped due to the fact nearby wetlands and farms would have to be destroyed.

The demonstration took place on Calle Tarragona in the Catalan capital between Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça dels Països Catalans.

The protests still took place, even though last week, Spain suspended the €1.7 billion airport expansion project, citing differences with the Catalan government, after president Pere Aragonès said he wanted to avoid destroying La Ricarda lagoon, a natural reserve next to the airport. 

Environmentalists decided not to call off the march, in case plans for the airport expansion still went ahead.

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about Barcelona airport’s €1.7 billion planned expansion

Political representatives from ERC, En Comú Podem and the CUP also attended, as well as the leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón; the Deputy Mayor for Ecology of the Barcelona City Council, Janet Sanz, and the Mayor of El Prat de Llobregat, Lluís Mijoler.

People from neighbourhoods across the city marched towards Calle Tarragona and could be seen holding placards that read Nature yes, airport no and shouting slogans such as “More courgettes and fewer planes” and “Fighting for the climate, health, and life”. 

One of the largest groups of people were those from El Prat de Llobregat, the municipality which is home to the airport, who were led by tractors. 

People march during a demonstration against the expansion of Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP

In addition to protesting against the expansion of the El Prat airport, people were also demonstrating against the Winter Olympic Games in the Pyrenees and extensions to airports in Mallorca and Madrid. 

A representative of Zeroport, Sara Mingorría said “We are here to defend not only La Ricarda, but the entire Delta”. 

The philosopher Marina Garcés also argued that the expansion of the airport would mean “more borders, more mass tourism, more control and more precarious jobs.” 

The leader of the commons in the Catalan parliament, Jéssica Albiach, who also attended the protest, asked the PSOE for “coherence”: “You cannot be passing a law against climate change and, at the same time, defend the interests of Aena [the airport operations company]”, she said. 

She also urged the leader of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, to “definitely say no. 

If the airport expansion in Barcelona goes ahead, environmentalists say that CO2 emissions would rise by a minimum of 33 percent. These levels would surpass the limits set by the Catalan government’s climate targets.