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Barça might have conceded a goal after just three minutes, but anyone that feared the worst need not have worried. What followed was a magnificent display from the blaugrana, dressed in yellow tonight, as they quickly cancelled out that early setback and went on to add a further two. But with a little more luck it could have been a lot more.
Back-to-back wins have been a fabulous way to start the year and it sends Barça soaring up to third in the league table … still seven points adrift of the leaders but a clear reminder to everyone that they are very much still in the chase!
The game could not have got off to a worse start. The players were still only finding their feet when an Athletic counter attack played Iñaki Williams through on goal. He’s caused trouble against Barça before and here he was doing it again. Three minutes gone and already a goal down… But not to worry - the rescue mission was a resounding success.
Barça reacted brilliantly. Sergiño Dest had had the best of several chances to get back level before the equaliser did come just before the first quarter of hour was up. Frenkie de Jong deftly knocked a Leo Messi delivery back towards Pedri, and the Canary Islander headed the high ball home.
Despite the early setback, Barça were now in utter control, Ousmane Dembélé was always looking dangerous, and a second goal looked very much on the cards.
Messi doubles up
When it came it was worth the wait. Pedri was having a wonderful game, and what he did here was sheer class. With Athletic keeper Unai Simón off his line, he could have tried a shot. Instead, he back-heeled the ball, as if he instinctively knew that Messi would be waiting behind him to slot the ball home.
Messi was indeed there. And so was Barça’s second goal. A joy to watch.
The Argentinian was on fire and after the break he turned up the heat even more. He’d already had a goal disallowed for the narrowest of offside calls, and blasted another onto the woodwork, before he did claim his second by pumping in an Antoine Griezmann assist.
From there on, the game was under complete control. Barça always looked more likely to extend their lead rather than Athletic narrowing it, and almost did just that when Messi struck the woodwork yet again, so it was very much against the run of play when Iker Muniain nicked a goal back for the home side in the final minute.
Injury time was suddenly going to be a lot nervier than we were expecting… But there was time left for the Basques and Barça could celebrate three very important points indeed!
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