Barcelona dropped points in their first away game
in the 2021/22 LaLiga Santander season in a
disappointing showing against a hungry Athletic
Club side, but the silver lining for the Blaugrana is
that Memphis Depay is looking to be a terrific signing.
Athletic were hot out the traps and
caused Barcelona all sorts of problems early on
and looked to be very much up for the occasion
throughout. What little Barcelona offered in
response mainly came from Memphis, with
support from compatriot Frenkie de Jong.
The new arrival was always looking to make
things happen and tormented the Zurigorri
defence whenever the ball was given to him.
Memphis Depay has hit the ground running as a
Barcelona player and showed again in San
Mames that he is where he belongs. He didn’t get
the service he deserves from his teammates but
still caused problems and was by far Barcelona‘s
brightest performer. He equalised with a brilliant
strike, with sufficient power to beat Julen
Agirrezabala at his near post, and could have won
it late on with a shot across goal that went wide.
Inigo Martinez scored the first goal at San Mames with fans back in the stands and the roar sounded like a lot more than the 10,000 Athleticzales who were present. The centre back stole a march on Eric Garcia to head home beyond Neto to open the scoring. In defence he was solid, except for one instance in the first half when Depay got the better of him.
Neto‘s struggles with the ball at his feet were noteworthy and Athletic picked up on it early on, choosing to press him. He relied on a little bit of luck to come away with just one goal conceded. The Brazilian did improve later in the game but Ronald Koeman will be anxious to have Marc-Andre ter Stegen back between the sticks.
Gerard Pique fell awkwardly and had to be replaced after just half an hour, folowing a week of speculation about his fitness. His absence was felt as the young centre back pairing of Eric Garcia and Ronald Araujo lacked experience and leadership. Barcelona will certainly hope Pique won’t be out for long as we saw last season how much they struggle without him. Eric Garcia, like Araujo, has potential but he struggled and will be having nightmares about the Williams brothers who both got the better of him before he was sent off.
Martin Braithwaite had a night to forget and a miss he’ll wish everyone else could forget. The Dane fired over inexplicably after Depay did excellently to set him up when the score was still 0-0. Otherwise, he was absent from the game, other than giving away a foul which caused Araujo‘s goal to be disallowed.