Depay’s stunner, De Jong unplayable & a defensive injury blow: Key takeaways from Barcelona’s Bilbao stalemate
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FC Barcelona’s meeting with Athletic Club on Saturday evening gave rise to a number of noteworthy takeaways, a trio of which we will delve into below.
Depay on target
Ronald Koeman’s men were back in action a short time ago.
The Blaugrana made the trip to San Mames, for a La Liga showdown with the aforementioned Bilbao.
Barca headed into proceedings aiming to keep a positive start to the new campaign alive, after bouncing back from the departure of talisman Lionel Messi with a 4-2 downing of Real Sociedad last weekend.
When all was said and done in the Basque country this evening, however, the visitors were forced to settle for a share of the spoils.
A pulsating affair, during which both sides could and probably should have added further to the scoreline, ultimately culminated in a 1-1 stalemate.
Inigo Martinez put Athletic in front early in the 2nd-half, nodding home following a sustained spell of pressure.
Barcelona, though, levelled things up in devastating fashion 15 minutes from time, when Sergi Roberto’s defence-splitting pass was rifled home in stunning fashion by Memphis Depay, securing a point in the process:
Magic from Memphis! 😱
SMASHED into the roof of the net for the Barca equaliser 💥 pic.twitter.com/DaqS54yMCW
— Premier Sports (@PremierSportsTV) August 21, 2021
Dazzling De Jong
Depay’s eventual equaliser came as a just reward for the Dutchman, who, since his free agent arrival this summer, has looked by some distance the most dangerous of Ronald Koeman’s wealth of attackers.
The ex-Lyon man teed up the club’s opener versus Sociedad last time out, with his first competitive strike in Blaugrana colours this evening boding altogether well when it comes to prospects moving forward.
STUTTGART, GERMANY – JULY 31: Memphis Depay of Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal during a pre-season friendly match between VfB Stuttgart and FC Barcelona at Mercedes-Benz Arena on July 31, 2021 in Stuttgart, Germany. (Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Whilst Depay proved the difference-maker on the scoreboard, however, it was another member of the visitors’ XI who in fact shone brightest at San Mames.
The player in question? Frenkie De Jong.
Another Dutchman currently plying his trade in Catalunya, the young midfielder seemed to be at the heart of everything positive produced by Barca this evening.
De Jong has long developed into one of the most complete midfielders in world football, with his near unrivalled combination of guile, dribbling ability, defensive nous and ceaseless work-rate having been on full display versus Athletic Club.
📊 | Frenkie de Jong vs. Athletic Bilbao
70 passes (85% accuracy)
2 key passes
2 accurate long balls
1 hit woodwork
4 successful dribbles
9 duels won
2 blocked shots
2 tackles pic.twitter.com/K68kY5jANi
— 🪄🇳🇱 (@FDJChief) August 21, 2021
An otherwise largely positive evening for Barcelona, however, was soured by a pair of blows on the personnel front.
First, on the half-hour mark, key defender Gerard Pique was forced to limp off, after picking up an unspecified injury problem. This adds to a worrying trend for the Spanish veteran, who, as of late, has begun to struggle in his efforts to simply stay on the pitch:
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) August 21, 2021
Then, with just minutes remaining in the 90 in the Basque country, the Blaugrana’s defensive woes were added to further, when Eric Garcia was sent for an early bath following a last-man challenge on the edge of the area.
Koeman may need to get creative when his side play host to Getafe next weekend…