Goals by Mikel San Jose, Andoni Iraola and Benat Etxebarria gave Athletic Bilbao a 3-2 win over RC Celta de Vigo in the inaugural match at the San Mames Barria in La Liga on Monday.
“This is very good news for us, apart from the three points, we had the dream of starting off in this place with a win,” Athletic manager Ernesto Valverde said after the first match at the new stadium.
Celta striker Charles Dias silenced the 36,000-strong crowd when he opened the scoring against the run of play in the 14th minute from a cross by Rafinha after rushing forward on a swift counterattack.
Mikel San Jose drew loud cheers from Athletic fans when he equalized in the 18th minute, beating goalkeeper Yoel Rodriguez after controlling the ball from a free-kick taken by Etxebarria.
Iraola scored his first goal of the season for Athletic in the 61st minute from a delicate back-pass by Iker Muniain. Seven minutes later, Etxebarria timed his run forward to beat the offside trap, controlled the ball in the penalty area, skilfuly sidestepped a defender and calmly shot low into the goal.
“It was important that the inauguration should begin on a good footing with a victory and I’m absolutely delighted,” Etxebarria said.
Santiago Mina pulled one back for Celta when he angled a back-header over goalkeeper Iago Herrerin’s outstretched hands in the 79th minute.
Celta missed other opportunities. Athletic goalkeeper Iago Herrerin gave away a penalty in the 26th minute when he brought down Manuel “Nolito” Agudo in the penalty area, but the forward shot over the crossbar.
Dias just missed a second in the 41st minute when his shot went high after having found himself alone in front of goal after a counterattack.
“I’m focusing on the match. The stadium will likely be here another 100 years, but the three points being battled for today, if lost, won’t come back again,” said Jose Angel Iribar, 70, who played 614 games for Athletic between 1964 and 1980, and was watching from the stands.
In Monday’s other match, Elche were held to a 0-0 draw by visiting Real Valladolid.
Atletico Madrid and Barcelona lead the standings with 12 points from four games, while Athletic are fifth on nine points and Celta are eighth.