Lionel Messi was in his element as he scored a brace against Athletic Bilbao to seal Barcelona’s three points and anchor them to the 3rd spot in the La Liga table. Athletic Club welcomed Barcelona to play their 18th match of the La Liga season under their new manager Marcelino. Strikes from Pedri and a Messi masterclass ensured Barca stayed afloat despite a late goal from the home team.
It took just 3 minutes for the hosts to get in front when forward Inaki Williams pounced on a through ball and raced towards goal, beating one defender before firing low into the net in the third minute. Barca were quick to respond in form of 18-year-old Pedri’s header, which came from a classical Barcelona team goal. Messi’s pass to Frenkie de Jong was volleyed by the Dutch midfielder for Pedri to head it home.
It was yet again Pedri and Messi magic when the Argentine scored in the 38th minute. A scintillating play of passes from Messi to Pedri and a delightful backheel from the Spaniard saw Messi rolling in the ball into the bottom corner. Messi scored again in the 62nd minute to give Barcelona a two-goal cushion. The Argentine failed to complete his hat trick, despite creating top chances to score.
Athletic Club’s Iker Muniain made the finale a bit more tense by scoring in the 90th, but it was too little, too late for the home side. The win took Barca to the 3rd spot with 31 points from 17 games above Real Sociedad. Messi’s brace made him the joint top scorer in La Liga.
Barca boss Ronald Koeman said at a presser, “That’s the way we need to continue. I felt like we controlled the game the whole time and there were barely any dips in our play.”
“The title race is still open because the season is very long. There can be injuries, teams can have downturns and a side that looks very good can end up struggling,” he added.