Ivan Rakitic

Bilbao (Spain), Aug 29 (IANS) Ivan Rakitic knocked in a decisive header in the first half of Barcelona’s 1-0 victory against Athletic Bilbao.

Twenty minutes into play, it was Arda Turan, who perfectly centered the ball to the waiting Rakitic and he did not wait to slam the ball into the nets to take the lead, although they almost tied it up later on a free kick by Benat Etxebarria.

Lacking Neymar after his gold-winning trip to the Rio Olympic Games, and with Andres Iniesta on the injured list, Luis Enrique Martinez’s boys have nevertheless managed to develop the combinations to triumph in their first two games in this campaign.

Nevertheless, the clash on Sunday was rather heated, freewheeling and intense, something that is unusual so early in the season, with Athletic fighting hard for at least a draw all the way up to the final whistle and developing more good chances than Barca.

Lionel Messi got decent set-ups on several occasions although his shots failed to hit but as play unfolded it didn’t matter after the Croatian’s early score and Barcelona goalie Ter Stegen was able to fight off any threats posed by Athletic.

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