Ageless Aduriz Stuns Champs

Athletic Bilbao's striker Aritz Aduriz launching his body in the air to score with a overhead kick in the 89th minute. It was the only goal of the game at the San Mames stadium on Friday as Barcelona begun their La Liga title defence with a shock def
Athletic Bilbao's striker Aritz Aduriz launching his body in the air to score with a overhead kick in the 89th minute. It was the only goal of the game at the San Mames stadium on Friday as Barcelona begun their La Liga title defence with a shock defeat. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Veteran striker grabs dramatic winner in style to outshine Barca's new big-money signings

BILBAO • Spanish champions 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 San Mames pitch for no more than a minute when he swivelled his body to meet an arching cross from Ander Capa and smashed the ball past Marc-Andre ter Stegen with an overhead kick in the 89th minute, giving Bilbao a 1-0 home win.

He famously scored a hat-trick against Barca in a thumping 4-0 win in the 2015 Spanish Super Cup and, this time, he upstaged their new boys Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong on their debut.

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde worked with Aduriz for four seasons at Bilbao and paid tribute to the Basque striker, who will hang up his boots after this season.

"When I saw him shaping to shoot I knew what would happen, it's an area of the game he utterly dominates. 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."

Bilbao coach Gaizka Garitano described the 38-year-old 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.

MAGICAL STRIKE

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.

GAIZKA GARITANO , Bilbao manager, who also paid tribute to Aritz Aduriz's professionalism.

"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 the Spanish top flight and his 158th strike overall.

He savoured the moment, recognising it might be one of his last.

"It's incredible when the fans cheer for you like they did today, it's impossible that I won't end up missing that but everything must come to an end," he said.

"Sometimes football is so beautiful and when you least expect it a ball like that comes to your feet and goes into the net."

It was Barca's first opening-day defeat since 2008, a 1-0 setback at minnows Numancia.

Griezmann could not make up for Lionel Messi's absence on his competitive debut after joining from rivals Atletico Madrid last month for €120 million (S$184 million).

It was a lacklustre performance for the France forward, whose only significant chance came with a header in the final minutes.

Messi is nursing a right calf injury while Luis Suarez had to be replaced in the first half because of a right leg injury. Philippe Coutinho could not play because of a pending move to German champions Bayern Munich on a season-long loan.

Griezmann's display was questioned by a frustrated Valverde.

"If he is close to the box he can finish, he moves well, but you have to dominate the game for that to happen," the Barca boss said. "We expect a lot from all the players and he has to look to get in the game more.

Barca defender Gerard Pique added: "We did not play like we usually do and they put us under a lot of pressure and if you're not at your very best then a team like Athletic walks all over you."

REUTERS, ASSOCIATED PRESS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 18, 2019, with the headline 'Ageless Aduriz Stuns Champs'. Print Edition | Subscribe