Team celebrate the victory / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

Messi v Athletic / Photo: Miguel Ruiz - FCB

FC Barcelona are alive in La Liga. They ended a three-match losing streak this Sunday thanks to a 2-1 win over Athletic Club, who had taken the lead through Aduriz in the 50 minute. Barça missed a number of clear chances to equalise before Pedro pounced on a scuffed shot from Alexis to score from close range in the 71. Just minutes later Messi scored a second from a free kick to seal the win and keep Barça in the hunt for the title.

Chances go begging

Barça faced a big ask tonight against Athletic Club in the Camp Nou: not only did the players have to overcome a painful run of three straight defeats but they had to do so with the handicap of an ever-lengthening injury list. Add to that the fact that Athletic Club had already beaten Barça in Bilbao and have one of the best away records in the division, it was clear it was going to be a nervous night.

However, Barça started brightly enough with Pedro and Messi both breaking clear to test Gorka. Messi netted in the 18 minute only for the referee to rule him offside. Adriano had his effort cleared off the line by Balenziaga.

Woodwork for both teams

As the first half started to wind down, it was the turn of Athletic to come close to opening the scoring when Aduriz hit Pinto’s left-hand post after a spectacular scissor kick from the middle of the box. The Barça keeper recovered well to neutralise Susaeta’s follow-up. Alexis replied for Barça by hitting the crossbar and so the teams went in at halftime wondering what they had to do to score.

Aduriz breaks the deadlock

It took Athletic Club just five minutes to break the deadlock of the first half through Aduriz. Moments later they almost made it two but Susaeta’s goal was ruled offside. After a shaky opening ten minutes, Barça steadied the ship and began to create increasing danger for Gorka in the Athletic goal. He saved brilliantly from Pedro while Messi saw his shot go inches wide.

From 0-1 to 2-1 in four minutes

Finally, luck went Barça’s way in the 71 minute when Pedro reacted swiftly to a scuffed effort by Alexis to hit the equaliser. Three minutes later, Messi fired a trademark free kick through the wall low into the net with Gorka beaten by the speed.Barça held on to take all three points and stay in the race for the league title.