Barcelona Edge past Athletic Bilbao to Resume Winning Ways

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lorenzo bernardi

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  • Barcelona Edge past Athletic Bilbao to Resume Winning Ways

Barcelona Edge past Athletic Bilbao to Resume Winning Ways

Last week has not been great for Barcelona, as the Catalan giants faced tough opposition in couple of matches. First, in the Spanish La Liga they drew against Sporting Gijon with David Villa saving a point for the Champions towards the end. In the midweek Champions League clash Arsenal won by 2-1, taking an advantage in the second leg to be played at Camp Nou.

This weekend, Barcelona saw Real Madrid winning against Levante and closing the gap to two points. The Champions faced Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou which was apparently an easy fixture. However, Bilbao created problems for the Catalan giants in their Copa del Ray tie, when Barcelona could only go through with an away goal advantage. This time the resistance was even tougher for the Spanish giants.

Barcelona took the lead in the opening three minutes through David Villa. At that point, it seemed as if the problems at Camp Nou are over. But, a second goal could not be found as the visitors defended vehemently. It was Bilbao who found the second goal through Andoni Iraola, who converted from the penalty spot. The match was going towards another draw but Lionel Messi found the winner late in the second half to bag all three points for his team. It was a great moment for the youngster who was playing his 250th match for his club.

Pep Guardiola made a few changes from the team that lost against Barcelona. Victor Valdes made a grave error that helped Robin Van Persie to find the equaliser. He was replaced with Jose Manuel Pinto, who has had only a few starts this season. Also, Maxwell was left on the bench as Eric Abidal was given his usual role as the left-back. Carlos Puyol was once again missing from the centre due to an injury. In his absence, Sergio Busquets was paired up with Gerard Pique, which was a unique choice by Pep Guardiola. The midfield position was vacant and Javier Maschernao got another rare start for the league game.

The first goal came early for Barcelona but it was quite controversial. Xavi’s immaculate pass found Daniel Alves, who was marginally offside. The Brazilian right-back played the ball back to David Villa who scored in the third minute. Andres Iniesta almost setup Lionel Messi in the opening ten minutes but it was futile. Messi then had a penalty appeal turned down despite being fouled in the box. Villa could have made it 2-0 after 25 minutes, but his amazing chip hit the crossbar.

Bilbao was looking threatening on the break but despite coming close on a couple of occasion they never really challenged Pinto. Around the halftime mark, however, Pinto was called in to save the day for his team when he dived to save a header from Fernando Llorente.

In the second half, Busquets brought down Llorente in the box and referee made no mistake in pointing to the penalty spot. Iraola stepped up and sent the keeper in the wrong direction before shooting the ball into an almost empty goal. With both teams on equal terms once again and no inspiration on the field, it was Lionel Messi who was called for assistance. The Argentinean maestro incredibly made his way past a bunch of Athletic defenders but he was brought down in the area by Javier Martinez. It was a clear penalty but the referee again denied the shout.

However, in the 78th minute, Messi found the net and the winning goal for his team. Again, Xavi setup Alves whose low cross was met by Lionel Messi on the other end. The Argentinean forward made no mistake in placing the ball into the net. With this goal, Barcelona got the much needed victory and now they move five points clear of their archrivals, Real Madrid, once again.   

 

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