Lionel Messi shone when Barcelona triumphed at the San Mames to secure a 3-2 win over Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday night as they climbed to third place in the La Liga table.
An exciting first half saw Bilbao get off to a perfect start. A nice slide rule pass from Raul Garcia led Inaki Williams to finish confidently in the third minute after a quick breakaway for the hosts. Subsequent action, however, was dominated by Barcelona and without goalkeeper Unai Simon the Blaugrana would have led by a much larger margin at the break.
The hosts’ shooting scorer brilliantly saved Sergino Dest, Ousmane Dembele, Jordi Alba and Antoine Griezmann in the first 45 only. But Simon couldn’t find a way to prevent a fantastic team movement that ended by Pedri in the 14th minute, and a beautiful goal from Lionel Messi in the 38th minute as the Catalan giants found themselves 2-1 at the half-time.
The visitors continued to have the lion’s share of the game after the break, but struggled to get around Bilbao’s rigid defensive form in the early stages. However, a moment of magic opened the door once again as, within minutes of reaching the top of the 25-meter upright, Messi finished sublimely with a pullback from Griezmann on time. The Argentine was at fault, however, as his stray ball found its way to Iker Muniain to score at home as a consolation goal in the 90th minute, to make it 3-2.
Now to the odds.
Marc-André ter Stegen (GK) – 6/10 – The German didn’t have much to do after the opening goal, but kept his team safe with two saves, before being beaten by a nice goal from Muniain.
Sergino Dest (RB) – 6/10 – Was caught off guard several times in the second half.
Ronald Araujo (CB) – 7/10 – Another imposing performance from the youngster. Made two crucial tackles to maintain his team’s lead on either side of the break, winning possession seven times.
Clément Lenglet (CB) – 6/10 – A distinctly average display from the Frenchman as he only made one tackle throughout, but finished the match with 94% passing accuracy.
Jordi Alba (LB) – 6/10 – The Spaniard went up and down the flank well and saw a lot of the ball with 109 touches. He also made five interceptions at the left-back.
Sergio Busquets (DM) – 7/10 – Had a solid game. The veteran was right on the defense in a waiting position and left the field with 94% passing accuracy.
Pedri (CM) – 8/10 – He had a first half to remember as he nodded after a nice building game, while also providing help for Messi’s opening goal. Was calmer in the second, but still helped in the final third.
Frenkie de Jong (CM) – 9/10 – Another brilliant display from the Dutchman. De Jong provided his team’s first assist, maintained a 94% passing accuracy and also made six interceptions.
Ousmane Dembele (RW) – 7/10 – The Frenchman was very brilliant, having made two shots on target, three key passes and five dribbles in a menacing performance.
Lionel Messi (ST) – 9/10 – Set up the first goal with a sublime pass. Completed nonchalantly to put his team in the lead before half-time. The Argentinian scored his second after the break and has dictated his team’s forward play throughout. He was at fault for the second from Bilbao, but we can forgive him.
Antoine Griezmann (LW) – 8/10 – He was inventive throughout and was not fortunate enough not to score his fourth goal of the league campaign as he recorded two shots on target. Provided a nice assist for Messi’s second goal, however.
Martin Brathwaite (RW) – 6/10
Oscar Mingueza (RB) – 6/10