Barcelona 2-0 Athletic Bilbao: Iniesta & Messi goals see Catalans stay six points behind Real Madrid
Pep Guardiola's side kept up the chase at the top of the table thanks to a comfortable victory over a tired Basque outfit at Camp Nou
By Martin Macdonald
Barcelona cut Real Madrid's lead at the top of the Spanish Primera Division back to six points with a 2-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou on Saturday evening.
The visitors struggled to make an impact on the match, and looked very fatigued having played just 48 hours before in the Europa League. The Catalan side duly took advantage, with goals from Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi sealing the three points.
|Bet:||Returns:||Espanyol £60.00||Draw £40.00||Barcelona £15.30|
|Bet:||Returns:||Espanyol £55.00||Draw £38.00||Barcelona £16.15|
|Bet:||Returns:||Espanyol £55.00||Draw £41.00||Barcelona £15.70|
The Blaugrana, who had entered the game nine points adrift of Real Madrid after the capital club won 5-1 at Osasuna in the earlier kick-off, thought they had taken the lead with a fantastic move on the edge of the box just seven minutes into the match, with Messi and Dani Alves combining to set up Thiago for an easy finish inside the box. However the goal was correctly ruled offside by the linesman and Athletic were let off the hook.
Pep Guardiola's men came within inches of grabbing the opening goal of the match in the 25th minute, but for a world-class clearance off the line from Jon Aurtenetxe to save the visitors. Messi picked out Gerard Pique at the back post, who thought he had scored when he slid in with a looping shot but the 20-year-old was there to head clear.
But the deadlock was eventually broken just five minutes before the half-time whistle through a thunderous finish from Iniesta. Alexis Sanchez was the catalyst for the attack after he tracked back to rob Athletic of possession before giving the ball to Messi, who slipped a pass down the channel. Iniesta then drove towards goal before smashing a shot into the roof of the net past Iraizoz.
Marcelo Bielsa made a couple of positive changes at half-time, with Ander Herrera and Iker Muniain being introduced to the action. This sprung the visitors into life, as they looked more dangerous on the counterattack in the final third.
However, just over 10 minutes after the break, Barcelona doubled their lead thanks to a penalty from Messi. The spot-kick appeared to be the correct decision after Cristian Tello got the wrong side of Javi Martinez in the box and was brought down by a push from behind. The Argentine coolly dispatched the penalty in the bottom right corner.
Athletic then introduced Fernando Llorente into the fold, but he, much like his team-mates, failed to inspire his side's attack, although Muniain did have an effort cleared off the line by Pique 10 minutes from time after the teenager had rounded Victor Valdes.
Barcelona closed out the match for their seventh league win in a row. They now have 72 points but remain six behind rivals Real Madrid at the top of the table. Athletic Bilbao are in 11th on 38 points, nine points adrift of the coveted Champions League places, but they could drop further after Sunday's round of matches.
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