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Player ratings as Blaugrana move up to Real Madrid in La Liga

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Barcelona won three points against a resilient La Liga Athletic Club to move up to second place in La Liga, with Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann scoring the most important goals in what was the two teams’ third meeting in 2021.

The Blaugrana started the game on the front foot and dominated possession, pushing back Bilbao with continuous attacks that blossomed from the left flank to Jordi Alba. The continued pressure and controlled possession earned them a free kick after 20 minutes, which was converted by Messi for his 650th Barcelona goal.

The Athletic came out for the second half fully in supply, however, and caused a lot of trouble for Ronald Koeman’s side with more pressure. They drew after 49 minutes and the game opened up accordingly, with Barcelona forcing a number of fine saves on Unai Simon into the goal.

Barca came out of a storm of Bilbao, which looked dangerous at the break, and regained control after 74 minutes, with Griezmann finishing after a great pass football stint. Bilbao came to strike again, but to no avail, as Koeman’s side held on for an important victory.

Okay, enough of the chatter – here are the notes of Barcelona’s 2-1 win.

Jordi Alba, Oscar de Marcos, Ronald Araujo
Alba fights for possession | Alex Caparros / Getty Images

Marc-André ter Stegen (GK) – 6/10 – Ter Stegen was essentially the only fan at the stadium during the first half, barely getting his gloves dirty with very little to do except watch. Not much different after the break, but had to make one or two important stops.

Oscar Mingueza (RB) – 6/10 – Conservative in the first half and was caught sleeping at the start of the second half, which allowed Raul Garcia to pass and force the equalizer. Recovered well, however, and sparked a nice assist to Griezmann on the other end.

Ronald Araujo (CB) – 6/10 – Ventured forward in the first half and hit a low shot and pushed just past the far post on an otherwise calm evening. Dialed back when put into action.

Samuel Umtiti (CB) – 7/10 – Once in good shape, Umtiti is a joy to watch and a key to La Blaugrana. Infinitely compound when in possession and constantly activated to stop attacks in large areas when Jordi Alba was out of position.

Jordi Alba (LB) – 6/10 – The Spaniard’s tireless performance in the first half, bombarding the left flank to stretch Bilbao and allow Antoine Griezmann to drift inside. Nightmarish start after the break, scoring an own goal to attract the level of visitors.

Pedri, Lionel Messi
Pedri celebrates with Messi | Alex Caparros / Getty Images

Miralem Pjanic (CM) – 7/10 – Authoritative display in the middle of the park for Pjanic, who spun quickly with the ball and dribbled well in tight spaces in advanced areas. Had a ball header that was some goal scratched at point blank range by Unai Simon after 57 minutes.

Frenkie de Jong (CM) – 6/10 – Not the Dutchman’s most extravagant or important display in an otherwise impressive season. Rather calm compared to his midfield teammates, but broke up play well on occasion and racked up a 93% passing accuracy.

Pedri (CM) – 6/10 – The 18-year-old was keen to run past midfield and join the attack as an extra man, with mixed success. Some capricious passes but a positive outlet and attracted a lot of fouls on the ball. One to watch.

Ousmane Dembele (RW) – 8/10 – A calm first half saw Dembele squander solid chances on the counter, but the Frenchman looked much better in the second half when he was allowed to switch wings. Fantastic footwork to defend defenders and create opportunities for teammates.

Lionel Messi (ST) – 8/10 – Had a great scoring chance after just five minutes, but couldn’t win a battle of mind when one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Remained focused, however, and still looked like he was scoring that free kick after 20 minutes as soon as he stood on it. Invaluable.

Antoine Griezmann (LW) – 9/10 – Griezmann looked sharp and bonded well with Messi throughout the first half with one-touch football. Continued to take dangerous positions after the break and was rewarded with a great piece of play with a goal. Incredible movement across the Barcelona front line and fit.

Sergi Roberto – 6/10

Clement Lenglet – N / A

Martin Braithwaite – N / A

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