Barcelona have now made it seven straight games without a loss to climb into the Top 4 in La Liga thanks to a 3-2 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Basque Country. Barça started terribly but played excellent football over the final 80 minutes, and deserved a big win against a tough team. The Blaugrana have now picked up 17 points from their last 21, and this team is slowly showing signs of life.
It was as bad a start to the game as one could have imagined for Barça, who fell into Athletic’s trap and conceded a monster counter attack just three minutes into the game, and Iñaki Williams put his team ahead with a good finish inside the box. Bilbao had a great chance to double the lead a couple of minutes later but Yuri Berchiche hit the side netting, and after 10 minutes it looked like a really long night for Barça.
But the Blaugrana created a big chance that required Unai Simón to stop Sergiño Dest from scoring, and that moment seemed to wake Barça up. From that point on, it was all Blaugrana, with some great attacking moves and really fierce pressing to recover the ball and not allow Athletic to go on the break.
And then Pedri started to shine: after Frenkie De Jong showed great effort to chase down a bad cross from Lionel Messi and knocked the ball back to Pedri, the youngster headed home the equalizer, and after 25 minutes of being involved in every good thing that Barça did, Pedri made the play of the game, with a gorgeous backheel assist to give Messi a tap-in and put Barça ahead.
Messi had a golden chance in front of goal to make it three just before halftime but missed it, but as we went into the break the Blaugrana had the lead and the momentum on their side, and they had a chance to finish the job in the second half in dominant fashion.
Athletic came out pressing higher and bringing danger with crosses into the box, but Barça were still in control and continued to keep the ball and use good passing and movement to create more chances. They scored a beautiful third goal after a long team move and a smart cross from Antoine Griezmann for a great finish by Messi, who doubled Barça’s lead and put in the visitors in a comfortable position.
With a two-goal lead on the road against a good team, Barça didn’t take the foot off the gas and continued pressing for goals, and Messi hit the post twice and came very close to putting the game out of reach. But the Blaugrana couldn’t quite finish the job and opened the door for a Bilbao comeback thanks to a bad pass by Messi at the back and a great finish by Iker Muniain in the 90th minute.
Thankfully for Barça there was no time left for Athletic to find a late equalizer, and the final whistle came to give Barça three crucial points in a big game. The score doesn’t tell the story: this wasn’t a 3-2 game, and Barça thoroughly deserved all three points. Pedri is a magician, and despite the late error Messi is still Messi. Is there hope for this team? Maybe.
Athletic: Simón; Capa, Núñez, Martínez, Yuri (Balenziaga 31’); De Marcos (Berenguer 65’), Vencedor, Vesga (D. García 65’), Muniain; R. García (Morcillo 80’), Williams
Goals: Williams (3’), Muniain (90’)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Dest (Mingueza 75’), Araujo, Lenglet, Alba; De Jong, Busquets, Pedri; Dembélé (Braithwaite 75’), Messi, Griezmann
Goals: Pedri (14’), Messi (38’, 62’)