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Athletic 2-5 Barcelona: Catalans attackers seal confident win

Lionel Messi scored the opener, while
Neymar, Luis Suarez and Pedro bagged a
goal each, as Luis Enrique’s side narrowed
La Liga’s gap at the top to a point
Barcelona ended a poor run at San Mames to beat
Athletic 5-2 and close in on Real Madrid at La Liga’s
summit.
Atletico Madrid sensationally thrashed their city rivals 4-
on Saturday and second-placed Barca took full advantag
of their old enemy’s humiliation to reduce the gap to a
single point.
Lionel Messi chalked up his 23rd league goal of the
season via a deflected free kick and Luis Suarez’s 26th-
minute strike set Luis Enrique’s men on the road to a firs
win in four attempts in Bilbao.
The hosts retained attacking ambition and pulled a
deserved goal back after the break through Mikel Rico,
but an Oscar De Marcos own-goal and a sublime Neyma
strike in quick succession put the result more or less
beyond doubt – even if it was Athletic striker Artiz Aduriz
rounding off a frantic period of four goals in seven
minutes.
Xabier Etxeita was deservedly sent off for a shocking
75th-minute lunge on Suarez, leaving Barcelona to close
out victory with a fantastic fifth in the 86th minute –
Messi showcasing mesmerising footwork to feed Sergio
Busquets, who crossed to give substitute Pedro
Rodriguez a tap-in.
The in-form Aduriz hooked a sixth-minute volley over at
the near post as slack set-piece marking almost undid
Barcelona.
Luis Enrique’s team were far from their fluent best
during the opening exchanges and required a slice of
fortune to take a 14th-minute lead.
The chance was presented by a needless handball from
Iker Muniain and Messi’s resulting free kick spun
wickedly off the defensive wall to elude Gorka Iraizoz.
Claudio Bravo in the Barcelona goal showed superb
reactions to thwart Aduriz when he prodded goalwards
in the 20th minute – a save that was soon bettered by
opposite number Iraizoz keeping out a Suarez header
from point-blank range.
Markel Susaeta’s free kick was pushed clear by Bravo
before Suarez ended a period of dominance for the
goalkeepers, driving at the Athletic defence and
exchanging passes with Messi to rifle a 20-yard drive tha
Iraizoz got a hand to but could not stop.
Barcelona should have led 3-0 in the 29th minute as Xav
sprung the offside trap to round Iraizoz but Neymar’s
effort from his cutback was cleared off the line by
Aymeric Laporte and Suarez was unable to convert the
follow-up.
Aduriz almost hauled Athletic back into the match when
Gerard Pique failed to clear Mikel Balenziaga’s cross and
the striker nodded against the left-hand post, while Unai
Lopez side-footed a volley wide when given ample room
to reduce the arrears after 53 minutes.
That early second-half miss spurred Athletic on and they
finally found the net as Rico tapped home on the
rebound when Bravo saved from Aduriz.
Messi conceded possession in the build-up to that goal,
but made amends by helping to restore Barcelona’s two-
goal advantage in the 62nd minute – steering Suarez’s
dinked cross towards goal where it struck the
unfortunate De Marcos and crossed the line.
Two minutes later, Ivan Rakitic and Messi orchestrated a
sublime counterattack, the latter’s pass was dummied b
Xavi and Neymar stroked home a clinical finish from th
edge of the area.
The goal-rush continued as Muniain caught Busquets
napping to play in Aduriz for the goal his efforts
deserved.
Etxeita somewhat soured a magnificent exhibition of
football with his X-rated challenge, but only temporarily
as Pedro – Suarez’s replacement – capped victory in
wonderful style.


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