MADRID (Rahnuma) ; FC Barcelona’s poor run of form continued as they were held to a 1-1 draw in the Camp Nou Stadium by a brave Athletic Club Bilbao on Saturday afternoon.
Oscar de Marcos opened the scoring for Athletic, but Munir El Haddadi equalized six minutes from time after Leo Messi entered as a second half substitute to bring Barca back to life.
Barca coach Ernesto Valverde continued with his policy of squad rotations with Messi and Sergio Busquets starting on the bench against his former club.
The first chance fell to Luis Suarez who took advantage of Messi’s absence to send a free kick just wide of the goal defended by Unai Simon.
Athletic were playing a man to man marking system and pressing Barca much higher up the pitch than most visitors to the Camp Nou and created decent chances for Inaki Williams, who lobbed just wide and then dribbled past Ter Stegen only to run out of space.
At the other end, Unai Simon made two excellent saves from Suarez, before Athletic opened the scoring in the 41st minute as full back Oscar de Marcos got in behind the Barca defense to score from close range following Markel Susaeta’s curling cross.
Both Busquets and Messi were soon into the action in the second half, although in Busquets’ case it was because of an injury to Sergi Roberto.
Barca began to take control of the ball as Athletic perhaps paid for their efforts in the first 45 minutes and Coutinho saw a volley bounce onto the crossbar with Suarez unable to score from the rebound.
Messi then had a free kick in the sort of position he usually scores from but De Marcos’ quick thinking saw him drop deep to clear from just ahead of the goal-line.
The Argentinean then flashed a shot off the outside of the post with 15 minutes remaining before setting up Munir, who had just come into the game as a substitute for the equalizing goal after Unai had saved his original shot.
Ivan Rakitic almost won the game for Barca in injury time, but fired over and Valverde will have to explain why his key player began on the bench.