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Atletic delay Barca title party hopes

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27 Apr 2013 18:47:47

Atletic delay Barca title party hopes

Barcelona will have to wait until at least next weekend before sealing the La Liga title as Ander Herrera's 89th minute equaliser rescued a 2-2 draw for Athletic Bilbao at San Mames.

The Basques had the better of the opening period and went in front on 27 minutes when Aritz Aduriz turned Gerard Pique and his driven cross was forced home at the back post by Markel Susaeta.

However, the game was completely turned around by the introduction of Lionel Messi just before the hour mark as he equalised 10 minutes later with a wonderful solo run past three Athletic players before planting the ball in the bottom corner

Messi was also involved as Barca went in front moments later as he knocked Dani Alves cross into Alexis Sanchez's path to slot past Gorka Iraizoz.

However, Ander's late intervention means Barca will have to wait to mathematically seal the title even if Atletico Madrid beat second-placed Real Madrid later on Saturday evening.

Barca boss Tito Vilanova had surprisingly made just the four changes after Tuesday's 4-0 mauling at the hands of Bayern Munich, but with Messi still suffering from the after-effects of a hamstring injury picked up against Paris Saint-Germain a month ago, he started alongside Andres Iniesta on the bench.

Despite his absence Barca started brightly and were unlucky not to be in front on 16 minutes when Sanchez latched onto Cesc Fabregas's pass and saw his shot from the edge of the area come crashing off the post.

Alex Song then also tested Iraizoz and Xavi curled a shot wide, but Athletic started to take a hold of the game midway through the period and went in front just before the half hour.

Aduriz showed Pique a clean set of heels on the left side of the box and his driven cross was rattled in from barely a yard by Susaeta.

Indeed Aduriz should even have given Athletic a more commanding lead before half-time as he again beat Pique to Oscar de Marcos's perfect cross a minute before the break but saw his crashing header fly just over.

Susaeta then struck the bar with a free-kick just after the restart but the game then swung massively in Barca's favour with the introduction of Messi.

Iraizoz made a smart save to deny Pedro after he had been played in by the world player of the year, however there was nothing the Athletic keeper could do moments later as Messi left three Athletic defenders trailing in his wake before placing a precise finish into the bottom corner.

And Barca had completely turned the game around two minutes later when Sanchez latched onto Messi's pass to bundle the ball past Iraizoz from close range.

Messi then came within inches of his second of the evening three minutes from time but this time his effort flew just beyond the post.

And that was to prove vital as a minute from time Ander latched onto Adriano's poor clearance to fire past Victor Valdes and salvage a point for the hosts.


AFP

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