Markel Susaeta starred as Athletic Bilbao ended Real Madrid’s 100 per cent start to the new LaLiga season by battling to a 1-1 draw at the Estadio San Mames.
Susaeta worried the ponderous Real defence throughout and set up a 32nd-minute opener for Iker Muniain which threatened to cause embarrassment for Julen Lopetegui’s men.
Substitute Isco made an immediate impression when he drew Real level midway through the second half but it was a performance which left more questions than answers over Real’s post-Ronaldo era.
Things looked set to go well for the visitors when Luka Modric took advantage of some hesitant defending to fashion a first-minute effort which was blocked by a wall of defenders.
Madrid maintained the early pace but they received their first warning just before the quarter-hour mark when Susaeta threaded a pass to Inaki Williams who fired just wide of target.
Susaeta hit another effort over the bar, then pounced on a rare mistake by Sergio Ramos but elected to shoot rather than find his better-placed team-mate Williams, and missed his chance.
Bilbao came even closer in the 22nd minute when left-back Yuri Berchiche got on the end of a swift counter-attack but could only fire straight at Thibaut Courtois.
Bilbao keeper Unai Simon denied both Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio before the hosts got the opener they deserved in the 32nd minute, when Susaeta’s ball across the box was edged home by the lurking Muniain.
Things could have been even worse for Real had Raul Garcia’s effort not been ruled out for offside, but it served to indicate that all was not well within Lopetegui’s rearguard.
Williams missed another chance for Bilbao early in the second half before the tide began to turn and Simon was required to make a superb double-save both from Bale’s free-kick and a Ramos follow-up.
Isco pounced in the 63rd minute with a superb close-range finish from a pinpoint right-wing cross from Bale.
Real remained in the ascendancy as they continued to hunt for the second goal which have kept their 100 per cent start to the new campaign intact.
Bale fired just over the bar and Asensio also flashed an effort just wide as Lopetegui’s men continued to push, with a plainly tiring Bilbao content to sit back and seek to exploit the counter-attack.
Ramos had the last chance for Real when he lashed a long-range free-kick over the bar, inevitably drawing comparisons to the precision of the now-departed Ronaldo.