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Champs Barcelona lose opener


Champs Barcelona lose opener

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BILBAO – Barcelona turned up for Friday’s La Liga opener at Athletic Bilbao parading a fresh-faced side containing expensive new recruits but they left cursing a strike from a rival player they know all too well.

Aritz Aduriz was on the pitch for no more than a minute when he swivelled his body to meet an arching cross from Ander Capa and smashed the ball into the net with an overhead kick in the 89th minute, giving Bilbao a 1-0 win over the champions.

The 38-year-old striker famously scored a hat-trick against Barca in a thumping 4-0 win in the 2015 Spanish Super Cup and this time he upstaged the debut of Barca’s new signings Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong.

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde worked with Aduriz for four seasons while at Athletic and he knew exactly where the ball was heading when it came towards the towering Basque striker, who is to hang up his boots at the end of the season.

“When I saw him shaping to shoot I knew exactly what would happen, it’s an area of the game he utterly dominates and I wasn’t surprised by the strike at all,” said Valverde.

“With Aduriz on the pitch any ball crossed into the area is deadly and he scored a brilliant goal.”

Athletic coach Gaizka Garitano described Aduriz as “a competitive animal”.

“He is the first to arrive at training and the last to leave. You might lose some sharpness with age but you never lose your hunger or your competitiveness,” he added.

“It was an incredible goal. Even though he is 38 he has a unique ability at striking the ball and he has won us the game. He is a player that no matter how old he is he makes the difference.”

It was the 15th consecutive season in which Aduriz has scored in La Liga and his 158th strike overall. (Reuters)