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Lionel Messi shined when Barcelona triumphed at San Mamés to beat Athletic Bilbao 3-2 on Wednesday night, as they climbed to third place in the La Liga table.
In an exciting first half, Bilbao got off to a perfect start. A beautiful slide-rule pass from Raúl García led Iñaki Williams to finish confidently in the third minute after a quick breakaway for the hosts. The subsequent action, however, was dominated by Barcelona and if it weren’t for goalkeeper Unai Simon, the Blaugrana would have suffered by a much greater margin at half-time.
The local stopper brilliantly saved Sergino Dest, Ousmane Dembele, Jordi Alba and Antoine Griezmann only in the first 45. But Simon could not avoid a fantastic team play finished off by Pedri in the 14th minute, and a beautiful goal from Lionel Messi at 38 minutes when the Catalan giants found themselves 2-1 up at half-time.
The visitors continued to have most of the game after the break, but struggled to get around Bilbao’s stiff defensive form in the early stages. However, a moment of magic opened the door once more when, minutes after he hit the top of the vertical from 25 yards, Messi finished sublimely from a Griezmann kick at the hour mark. The Argentine was to blame, however, as his loose ball reached Iker Muniain to concede as a consolation goal in the 90th minute, to bring the score to 3-2.
Now to the ratings.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GK) – 6/10 – The German didn’t have much to do after the first goal, but kept him safe with two saves, before being beaten by a precious goal from Muniain.
Sergino Dest (RB) – 6/10 – He was caught out of position a couple of times in the second half.
Ronald Araujo (CB) – 7/10 – Another imposing performance from the young man. He made two crucial tackles to preserve his team’s advantage on either side of the break, gaining possession seven times.
Clemente Lenglet (CB) – 6/10 – A clearly average display from the Frenchman, as he made only one tackle at all times, but finished the game with a 94% passing accuracy.
Jordi Alba (LB) – 6/10 – The Spaniard went up and down the band well and saw the ball a lot with 109 touches. He also made five interceptions on the left back.
Sergio Busquets (DM) – 7/10 – He had a solid game. The veteran was not mistaken defensively in the waiting position and left the field with a pass accuracy of 94%.
Pedri (CM) – 8/10 – He had a first half to remember when he headed home after a beautiful warm-up play, while also providing the assist for Messi’s first goal. He was calmer in the second, but still contributed in the last third.
Frenkie de Jong (CM) – 9/10 – Another brilliant display from the Dutchman. De Jong provided the assist for the first on his side, maintained a passing accuracy of 94% and also made six interceptions.
Ousmane Dembele (RW) – 7/10 – The Frenchman was very brilliant, having had two shots on goal, three key passes and five dribbles in a menacing performance.
Lionel Messi (ST) – 9/10 – Prepare the first goal with a sublime pass. He finished nonchalantly to put his side in the lead before the break. The Argentine scored his second after the break and dictated his team’s forward play at all times. He was to blame for Bilbao’s second, but we can forgive him.
Antoine Griezmann (LW) – 8/10 – He was inventive throughout and was unlucky not to score his fourth goal of the league campaign as he recorded two shots on goal. However, he provided a beautiful assist for Messi’s second goal.
Martin Brathwaite (RW) – 6/10
Oscar Mingueza (RB) – 6/10