Football: Barca suffer first league defeat of season at Bilbao

Barcelona's midfielder Andres Iniesta (left) vies with Athletic Bilbao's defender Andoni Iraola during the Spanish league football match Athletic Club Bilbao v FC Barcelona at the San Mames stadium in Bilbao on Dec 1, 2013. Barcelona crashed to their
Barcelona's midfielder Andres Iniesta (left) vies with Athletic Bilbao's defender Andoni Iraola during the Spanish league football match Athletic Club Bilbao v FC Barcelona at the San Mames stadium in Bilbao on Dec 1, 2013. Barcelona crashed to their first La Liga defeat of the season when they were beaten 1-0 at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday to lose their three-point lead over Atletico Madrid at the top of the table. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID (REUTERS) - Barcelona crashed to their first La Liga defeat of the season when they were beaten 1-0 at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday to lose their three-point lead over Atletico Madrid at the top of the table.

Barca were without the injured Lionel Messi, who is not expected back until mid-January, and turned in probably their worst performance of the campaign against a fired-up Bilbao at the Basque club's new San Mames stadium.

A miserable week for the Spanish champions, which included a 2-1 Champions League loss at Ajax Amsterdam, ended on a worse note when Bilbao's Iker Muniain turned in a Markel Susaeta cross in the 71st minute.

It was only the second time in 15 matches this season that Barca have dropped points and they are level with Atletico on 40 after the Madrid club's 2-0 win at promoted Elche on Saturday.

Real, whose 4-0 drubbing of Real Valladolid on Saturday included a hat-trick from record signing Gareth Bale, are three points further back in third.