La Liga: FC Barcelona 5-1 Athletic Bilbao: Match Review

Geri! Geri! Geri! Geri! - David Ramos

A recap of Barcelona's 5-1 win over Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou as goals from Lionel Messi (2), Gerard Pique, Adriano and Cesc Fabregas secured another three points for the Blaugrana

Barcelona produced a five-star performance to run-out 5-1 winners against Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou on Saturday night. Gerard Piqué’s opener got the ball rolling for the Blaugrana who raced into a 3-0 lead before half-time courtesy of goals from Lionel Messi and Adriano Correia. Cesc Fàbregas added a fourth soon after the interval, and while Ibai Gomez pulled one back for the visitors, Lionel Messi’s 21st league goal of the season (!) restored Barcelona four-goal lead and placed pressure on both Real and Atletico Madrid ahead of the Madrid derby.

Barcelona

Athletic Bilbao

Possession

56%

44%

Total Shots

19

6

Shots on Target

10

2

Pass Accuracy

88%

81%

Fouls

7

10

Offsides

2

2

Yellow Cards

1

3

Red Cards

0

0

Tito Vilanova made two changes from the side that defeated Levante 4-0 as Adriano replaced the injured Dani Alves at right-back, while Javier Mascherano started ahead of Carles Puyol – who had to settle for a place on the bench after starting against Alaves in midweek. Athletic Bilbao on the other hand was without Fernando Llorente, who was relegated back to the bench, and Iker Muniain who missed out entirely through injury. Even with in-form Aritz Aduriz in attack, Athletic Bilbao were up against it even before the match started.

Both teams started well, pressing each other high up the field and as a result, neither side could really gain a foothold in the opening ten minutes. However, despite the ever increasing tempo, both Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao kept their discipline so there were very few chances in the early stages of the game. Andrés Iniesta was looking bright down the left-hand side, and he cut inside a defender to give the game’s its first shot even if he couldn’t cause Gorka Iraizoz any significant problems.

From that point onwards, Barcelona grew in confidence and gradually started to assert their dominance, by keeping more possession and crucially, by forcing Athletic to retreat closer to their own goal. The pressure was building, although Barcelona didn’t really look as though they were going to find a breakthrough – at least from open play, but maybe that’s what caught Athletic off-guard...

After defending well in open play, Bilbao must have thought the danger was over when Barcelona won a corner with 22 minutes played. After all, the Basques were by far the more athletic side; they were bigger and stronger, so how did they concede from a corner kick? Well, Xavi’s delivery was good and it caused chaos in the Bilbao area which allowed Cesc Fàbregas enough time to turn and take a shot at goal, which Iraizoz parried back into danger. Would Bilbao react quickly enough to clear their lines? Not a chance, as Gerard Piqué pounced to claim his first goal of the season.

Three minutes later, Barcelona helped themselves to a second as Xavi clipped a delightful through ball past the Bilbao defense to Lionel Messi. The Argentine’s first touch took him clear of the final defender and Leo proceeded to lift the ball over Iraizoz and into the back of the net, despite the best efforts of Fernando Amorebieta – who may yet be credited with an own-goal. Whatever the case, with 25 minutes played, Barcelona were two goals ahead at the Camp Nou.

Lionel Messi nearly added a third after excellent play from both Jordi Alba and Pedro down the left-hand side culminated in a low cross being played into the Athletic six-yard box, but La Pulga couldn’t keep his effort down and had to watch on as the ball ricocheted off the underside of the bar and away. However, Barcelona were not about to be denied and extended their lead with the final kick of the first-half. Lionel Messi started the move with a darting run from the left-wing, and with multiple defenders in close proximity, Messi passed the ball on to Cesc Fàbregas, who was free just on the edge of the Athletic area. Cesc took a moment to assess the situation, saw the run of Adriano, opened up his body and found the Brazilian with a defense-splitting pass. Adriano struck the ball at the first-time of asking and just like that, Barcelona were three goals to the good. Mercifully for Marcelo Bielsa, the referee brought the half to an end – the only trouble was that there was another 45 minutes to follow.

Athletic made one change at the break as Fernando Llorente replaced the ineffective Aduriz, although being completely honest, what could Llorente do to turn this game around? He is a little out-of-form, at the very least he is lacking a bit of match fitness; and more importantly, Bilbao had barely ventured into the Blaugrana half. So, in spite of the change, Barcelona continued to press forward and within 15 minutes of the restart, they had their fourth. Retrieving possession deep in the Athletic half, Barcelona worked the ball across their frontline nicely as Iniesta found Cesc Fàbregas in space on the right-hand side, where he had enough time and space to score his seventh goal of the season.

Ibai Gomez pulled one back for the visitors with a composed finish past Victor Valdés in the 65th minute, but Barcelona soon restored their four-goal lead through Lionel Messi. Credit has to go to Pedro for his assist, which may have only been a simple pass, but came after some utterly mesmeric dribbling which kept Pedro in possession for long enough to make the pass to the Argentine, who dropped a shoulder and picked out the top-corner of Iraizoz’ goal with a wonderful right-footed shot.

Content with his side’s five-star performance, Tito made a few changes as Thiago, Martin Montoya and Alex Song were all brought on for Iniesta, Adriano and Busquets respectively. Gerard Piqué threatened to add to his tally in injury-time after a fantastic run, but the elegant centre-half unselfishly chose to play the ball back across goal and Messi couldn’t keep his header down to claim his hat-trick.

Next up, Barcelone entertain Benfica in their final UEFA Champions League group game, before next weekend’s tricky trip to Real Betis. Visca el Barca!

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