Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona – Story of the match

28 October 2017 09:50

Lionel Messi and Paulinho hit the target as Barcelona crept past Athletic Bilbao 2-0 to maintain their four-point lead in LaLiga.

Messi started and finished a move in the 36th minute to score his 12th league goal of the season, but Barca were flattered by Paulinho’s injury-time tap-in after a hard-fought evening at San Mames.

Both sides struck the woodwork, Messi and Paulinho for Barca and Raul Garcia for the hosts, while Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a couple of vital saves to preserve the points.

Tweet of the match

@OptaJose underlines the victor’s powerful form.

Star man

Lionel Messi. Barca were far from dominant but, as is so often the case, their Argentinean maestro was the difference. He produced a sweet first-time finish to break Athletic’s resistance, having played a key creative role to give the move legs. He will probably wonder how he failed to finish with a brace, showing off his delicate footwork to glide through the area only to roll his shot against the post, but 21 other players on the pitch would probably not have got that far. Had he lined up in a red shirt, the points might well have followed him.

Stat of the day

Barca cannot stop hitting the woodwork. In their last 16 games they have been denied by the frame of the goal on no fewer than 13 occasions. Paulinho is responsible for two of those and Luis Suarez for another but the other 10 have all come from Messi, whose goal return this term would have been truly staggering but for a fraction more luck or precision.

The importance of being Ernesto

Ernesto Valverde dedicated much of his career to Athletic, as player, assistant manager and twice as head coach. But for all the good times he enjoyed at San Mames, he failed to win any of his first six games as a visitor. This victory ended that streak, proving the power of being associated with Barca.

Player ratings

Athletic Bilbao: Kepa 6, Boveda 6, Nunez 7, Laporte 6, Lekue 6, San Jose 5, Iturraspe 6, Williams 7, Garcia 7, Cordoba 6, Aduriz 6. Subs: Etxebarria (for San Jose) 6, Susaeta (for Williams) 5.

Barcelona: Ter Stegen 8, Roberto 7, Pique 7, Umtiti 8, Alba 7, Busquets 7, Rakitic 7, Paulinho 8, Gomes 7, Suarez 7, Messi 8. Subs: Semedo (for Gomes) 6.

Who’s up next?

Olympiacos v Barcelona (Champions League, October 31).

Athletic Bilbao v Ostersunds (Europa League, Nov 2).

Source: By PA Sport Staff