Barcelona surrenders league leadership in Bilbao

MADRID, Nov. 21 -- FC Barcelona retained its unbeaten start to the season but surrendered the leadership of the BBVA Primera Liga following a 1-1 draw away to Athletic club Bilbao on Saturday.

Dani Alves opened the scoring for Barcelona early in the second half, while Gaizka Toquero leveled for Athletic less than ten minutes later.

Barcelona had drawn its last two away games, but began in Bilbao with a will to put that run to an end.

Spain internationals midfielders Xabi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta were on the top of their game, while Leo Messi could easily have scored after taking the ball past Athletic keeper Gorka Iraizoz. However, he took the ball too wide and the defense was able to recover.

Barcelona dominated the ball and produced several decent chances, with Pablo Rodriguez and Xabi Hernandez both going close to opening the scoring.

Xabi was the closest to scoring after a Messi pass after 30 minutes, but it was the home side that had the best chance in the first 45 minutes after Javi Martinez headed Fran Yeste's cross wide in the last move of the half.

That proved to be an expensive miss when Alves got on the end of Xabi's magnificent through ball seven minutes into the second half.

The Brazilian right back kept his calm and beat Gorka with a low shot that went in at the far post.

Athletic coach Joaquin Caparros reacted quickly by introducing striker Gaizka Toquero and the move paid off just after the hour when Toquero side footed home a pass from Fernando Llorente.

Barcelona brought on French striker Thierry Henry for the closing minutes and Henry was booed by the home fans for his blatant handball against Ireland in last week's World Cup qualifying match. Herny contributed nothing to the game and there was no further change to the score.

The final score means that Barcelona slip to second place for next week's visit of Real Madrid who top the standings after a 1-0home win over Racing Santander.

Elsewhere Sevilla remains third after a 2-1 win in Tenerife, while Deportivo la Coruna scored a last minute penalty to beat Atletico Madrid 2-1.