The final whistle blew inside an electric San Mamés and the players hugged each other, satisfied with their night's work and safe in the knowledge that they had done all that could be asked of them. All the rough and tumble, the comings-together and the cross words exchanged were forgotten. To a man, they had given their all and put on quite a show in an affair that ended all square - a fair result, it should be said - and heralded the arrival of Unai Simón, a lad whom circumstance has thrust into the big time and who looks fully worthy of a goalkeeping jersey steeped in tradition. I'm slightly reminded of Iker Casillas, who got his first-team chance amid a spate of absences (and, coincidentally, made his debut in Bilbao) and grabbed it with both hands. Simón seems a real prospect.
Real Madrid struggle to settle, excellent Athletic go in ahead at break
Athletic were excellent in the first 45, running themselves into the ground in their execution of their man-to-man-marking duties and, when possession was regained, launching swift counters that brought moments of danger in and around the Real Madrid box. Having started with Casemiro and Isco on the bench (Toni Kroos filling in at anchorman and Dani Ceballos operating in the German's usual role), Real struggled to settle - yet, purely by dint of their individual quality, still drew two fine saves from Simón that were reminiscent of the great José Ángel Iribar. However, it was Athletic who led at the break, and rightly so: not only because of their own endeavours, but also the defensive vulnerability again shown by the overconfident Marcelo. Sergio Ramos wasn't far behind on that score, either.
Substitute Isco earns Lopetegui's men point with rare header
Real boss Julen Lopetegui turned to Casemiro and, soon after, to Isco too, and Los Blancos improved. Rául García then took it upon himself to get in his opponents' faces in a bid to nip the Real reaction in the bud, but in fact only succeeded in achieving quite the opposite: he sparked such a state of overwroughtness among fans and team-mates alike that Athletic stopped doing the sensible things they'd been doing, and Isco promptly equalised with a fine header - not something we see from him every day. A by-now-knackered Real then pushed for a second, but Athletic regrouped and regained their former solidity, with substitutes Mikel San José and Mikel Rico both adding steel to the side in the closing stages. A breathless, full-blooded encounter from start to finish. A proper contest.