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San Mamés is never an easy place to win. Barça have struggled there in recent seasons and today was no exception. Indeed, for much of the ninety minutes they had their backs against the wall, and Athletic were good value for their 1-0 lead.
A flash of inspired brilliance was needed, and it came from the left foot of Memphis. The Dutchman was able to salvage a point from one of the most difficult road trips in La Liga, and in doing so celebrate his first official goal in an FC Barcelona jersey.
Athletic on top
With Ronald Koeman opting for the exact same eleven that had started against Real Sociedad, by far the best chance of the first half fell to Martin Braithwaite but the Dane could only send the ball sailing over the bar.
Barça did find the net thanks to a spectacular overhead kick from Ronald Araujo, on for an injured Gerard Piqué, but the referee had spotted an earlier infringement and the goal didn’t stand.
Aside from that, however, almost all the serious action was happening in and around the Barça area.
Iñaki Williams in particular was giving the blaugrana defence far too much to think about. A brilliantly timed tackle by Frenkie de Jong prevented the most clear-cut of his chances from going in, while Sancet fired an effort of his own onto the crossbar.
The Lions roar
Neto was another of the reasons why the home side were failing to make their chances count, and the one time he was beaten, Araujo was there to clear off the line.
But the Lions never stopped hunting for a goal, and they finally got it shortly after the interval when Iñigo Martínez headed in from a corner.
Even after going a goal down, the Catalans were struggling to create much in the way of real danger. Koeman sent on Yusuf Demir for his first competitive game in the hope of stirring things up a bit, but Neto was still by far the busier of two goalkeepers.
Going into the final quarter of an hour, De Jong almost had it with an exquisite chip that landed on top of the crossbar.
It may not have gone in, but that moment seemed to wake everything up. Moments later Memphis, one of the most active Barça players thus far, was blasting a fabulous left-foot drive into the net. His first competitive goal for his new club and at last we were back all-square.
The equaliser changed the mood of the game even more. Barça had taken eighty minutes to truly start ticking, but all the cogs were now firmly in place and a late winner was very much on the cards.
Memphis very nearly had it from an almost identical position to his goal, but that one trickled wide.
Athletic had one last shove too. Williams Junior was through on goal in the final seconds and Eric Garcia had no option but to cut him down. The centre back was red carded for his efforts, but that was pretty much the final action of the game.
Next Sunday, Barça are back at the Camp Nou, where Getafe will be the visitors.
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