Even though Ronald Koeman keeps on saying that he has plans regarding Philippe Coutinho, still, there was no sign of the Brazilian in a Barca shirt. When will the Brazilian appear and enjoy full minutes this season only Koeman and the Barca hierarchy know. Whatever it is, the Catalans dropped points for the first time in this season last night against Athletic Club.

For stretches of the encounter, Barcelona looked out of sorts, but they regrouped nicely in the second half to pull level through Depay after Inigo Martinez had given the Basque hosts a lead early in the second half.

Koeman used the same starting XI that he fielded in last week’s opener against Real Sociedad, with Memphis Depay, Antoine Griezmann, and Martin Braithwaite charged with leading the attack.

Braithwaite missed a wide-open net with a shot over the crossbar after some fine work from Depay, while Sancet swung a shot that had Barcelona goalkeeper Neto beat, but it smacked off the crossbar.

Barcelona were having difficulty trying to play out of the back against Athletic’s pressure.

Things became even more complicated later in the first half when Gerard Pique had to depart with an injury and was replaced by Ronald Araujo.

The back-and-forth tempo of the first half continued into the second half and Berenguer had it all there to break the deadlock after Inaki Williams had gotten the best of Eric Garcia, but Araujo managed to clear the ball off the line.

Athletic kept the pressure on and it paid off on a corner kick when Inigo Martinez turned in a header to hand the home side a 1-0 lead.

Barcelona looked bereft of ideas in the attacking third, so Koeman went to his bench in hopes of finding some sort of spark and summoned Sergi Roberto and 18-year-old Austrian starlet Yusuf Demir for Braithwaite and Pedri, respectively.

The midfield lacked creativity and a leader like Coutinho as the Catalans struggled to impose themselves on a game which the home side dominated for large periods and arguably had the better chances.

Still, Barcelona improved with the two introductions, and minutes after Frenkie de Jong had an effort bang off the crossbar, Depay drew the visitors level 1-1 with an excellent finish off a pass from Sergi Roberto after an Athletic giveaway at midfield.

Emerson was brought on to spell Sergino Dest in the late going, as Barcelona hunted for a late winner. A link-up between De Jong and Depay shaped up as the decisive goal, but the shot from the latter was swung wide.


Eric Garcia had endured a frustrating night against Inaki Williams, and then in the final moments, he was issued a red card for a challenge right outside the area on a breakaway from Nico Williams, Inaki’s brother. It proved to be a game-saving tackle though, as the resulting free-kick was sent into the Barcelona wall on the final chance of the night.

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