Luis Suarez’s second-half volley gave Barcelona revenge for their Super Copa defeat to Athletic Bilbao, as Luis Enrique’s side started their Liga campaign with a win.
The Spanish and European champions’ victory at the San Mames, in which Lionel Messi had a first-half penalty saved, was sweet revenge for Barca following their 5-1 aggregate defeat by Bilbao in this month’s Spanish Super Cup.
It came at some cost, however, as both midfielder Sergio Busquets and fullbackDani Alves picked up injuries that ended their participation in the game.
A well-organised and hard-pressing Bilbao made life difficult for Barca in the early stages before Suarez was tripped by Gorka Elustondo in the penalty area in the 30th minute and Messi stepped up to take the spot kick.
Bilbao goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz made a fine diving stop, becoming only the second man after Valencia’s Diego Alves to save a penalty from both Messi and Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo.
It was Messi’s 14th failed spot kick for Barca on the Argentina captain’s 63rd attempt.
Barca made the breakthrough in the 54th minute when Suarez found space in the area and smashed a superb volley into the net from Jordi Alba’s chipped centre.
Sergi Roberto, who had a fine game at right back after replacing Alves in the 19th minute, cracked a shot against the frame of the goal on the hour before Barca coach Luis Enrique had to make another change when Busquets appeared to damage an ankle in a clash with Bilbao striker Aritz Aduriz.
The Spain international was taken off on a stretcher although his coach later said neither his injury, nor that of Alves who looked to have tweaked a groin muscle, appeared to be serious.
“We know that these kinds of matches give us strength in our effort to win La Liga,” Suarez told Spanish television.
“We also knew that they would be a very difficult, very tough opponent,” added the Uruguay striker.
Barcelona have started with a win in each of the last seven campaigns, scoring 27 times and conceding just once.
Barcelona have scored more goals against Athletic than any other opponent in La Liga history (320).
Luis Enrique’s side have kept clean sheets in seven of their last eight league games, conceding only in the last matchday of the last season against Deportivo.
Iraizoz is the second goalkeeper who manages to save a penalty to Cristiano and Messi in all competitions, after Diego Alves.
Álvaro Negredo (6) is the only player that has missed more penalties than Messi and Ronaldo (5) since the argentinian took his first one
It took 15 minutes for Barcelona to receive the first shot on target (Sabin). Last season, it took 208 minutes and it was from an Athletic player too (Iturraspe)
Luis Suárez has scored the first goal from open play in La Liga this season
Luis Suárez has scored in three of the last four league games played for Barcelona (6).
Luis Suárez has scored his first goal assisted by Jordi Alba in La Liga
Barcelona have hit woodwork in their four official matches this season (5): Rafinha, Messi, Pedro, Piqué and Sergi Roberto