Williams, Aduriz give Athletic 2-1 first leg win in Bilbao, Barcelona leave job half-done




Barcelona started off 2017 in frustrating fashion with a 2-1 defeat to Athletic Bilbao in the first leg of the Copa del Rey Round of 16 first leg on Thursday night at the Estadio San Mames in Bilbao.



Aritz Aduriz and Inaki Williams delivered superb performances for Athletic, with each scoring in the first half to give Athletic a two-goal lead before Lionel Messi earned a key away goal for Barcelona early in the second half via a free kick.
Athletic would conclude the match with nine men but managed to hang on against a Barcelona side that were unable to cope with Athletic's intensity throughout the first half. It would be unfair to label it a sloppy performance from the Catalonians, although they were far from precise, however the Barcelona giveaways would not have happened if not for the pressure that Athletic placed on the cup holders.
The match was marred though by poor officiating from referee David Fernandez Borbalan, who failed to penalise Aduriz for a punch to the throat of Samuel Umtiti then and swallowed his whistle when Etxeita brought down Neymar in the Athletic area right before half-time.
There was no holding back from Barcelona manager Luis Enrqiue, who went with a full-strength starting XI to start the new year. Barcelona have looked far from assured in their most recent visits to San Mames and Athletic tried to make the visitors uncomfortable from the start on Thursday. The first minutes of the match belonged to the Basques and perhaps with a more accurate header, Mikel San Jose would have given the hosts a lead off a corner kick.
Luis Enrique's charges withstood the early pressure and began to gain a foothold in the match. Much of their success came on the left flank where Neymar's speed was overwhelming Boveda. But Athletic never let their intensity wane and it eventually led to the game's first goal in the 25th minute through Aduriz. A Barcelona giveaway resulted in an Athletic break led by Aduriz, who swung a pass out wide right to Raul Garcia, before the former Atletico Madrid man returned the favour and lofted a ball back toward the far post that Aduriz nodded in for the 1-0 lead.
Athletic's suffocating pressure and Barcelona's lack of accuracy continued and just minutes later Williams lasered in Athletic's second goal thanks to a delicate backheel from Aduriz. San Mames was in full voice and suddenly Barcelona were re-living the nightmares of the 2015 Spanish Super Cup when they were routed 4-0 in Bilbao.
Barcelona looked to sneak a goal back before the break and had a shout for a penalty in the final moments of the half when Neymar collided with Etxeita, but Fernandez Borbalan signalled for play to continue, much to the utter dismay of the visitors.
Down 2-0 at half-time and staring at disaster in the face, it was imperative for Barcelona to get Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez involved. The two were anonymous in the first half but Messi made his presence felt early in the second stanza when he rifled in a free kick that hit the underside of the crossbar and barely crossed over the line for the goal, despite the protestations of Athletic goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz.
The precious away goal was a huge boost for Barcelona while for Athletic fatigue logically began to settle in after they had spent the first hour on expending an enormous amount of energy. Their job got a lot tougher with a quarter-hour to play when Raul Garcia was sent off after receiving his second yellow card of the evening.
It was all Barcelona at the end, as the 10-man Basques were pegged back in their own area and resigned to defend to try to close out the match. Messi was first with a look but last-ditch defending from San Jose prevented the equaliser. The 10-man hosts were then reduced to nine when Iturraspe was given a second yellow for a foul on Neymar. 
Los Leones had to summon all their fight and heart to fend off Barcelona in the final minutes while playing with two fewer men, and roared on by their home fans they saw the match over the line just barely, as Messi nearly scored in the final second but saw his shot strike the post.
It sets the stage for what should be a dramatic second leg next Wednesday in Barcelona. Next up for Barcelona a return to league play on Sunday at Villarreal.
Match Sheet:
2.- Athletic Bilbao: Iraizoz; Bóveda, Etxeita, Laporte, Balenziaga; Iturraspe, San José; Raúl García, Williams (Elustondo, min. 83), Saborit (Muniain, min. 71); Aduriz (Eraso, min 78)
1.- FC Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Piqué, Umtiti (Alcacer, min 88), Alba; Busquets, Rakitic (Andre Gomes, min. 70), Iniesta; Messi, Luis Suárez, Neymar.Goals: 1-0, min. 25: Aduriz; 2-0, min. 28: Williams; 2-1, min. 53: 
MessiReferee: David Fernandez Borbalan (Andalucia). 
Yellow Cards: Umtiti (Min. 40) for Barcelona, Aduriz (Min. 40) for Athletic Bilbao, Iniesta (Min. 45) for Barcelona, Busquets (Min. 45) for Barcelona, Alba (Min. 45) for Barcelona, Iturraspe (Min. 53) for Athletic Bilbao, Raul Garcia (Min. 55) for Athletic Bilbao
Red cards: Raul Garcia (Min. 74) for Athletic Bilbao, Iturraspe (Min. 80) for Athletic Bilbao
All goals







Source: All Football 

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