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Barça players high-five after scoring one of their five goals at San Mamés. / MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

FC Barcelona walked into the new San Mamés with a chance to get within a point of the league leaders and walked out with a commanding 5–2 victory over Athletic Club Bilbao. The hosts, who played from behind all night after Leo Messi and Luís Suárez struck in the first half, answered twice to breathe life into the match. But Barça’s second-half firepower and a late expulsion that left the Basques with 10 men slammed the door shut.

The first chance of the game was for Athletic’s Aritz Aduriz, who redirected a corner kick just over the goal on seven minutes. Both teams were playing with a sense of urgency until Messi’s free kick at the quarter hour mark ricocheted off the wall to fool a diving Gorka Iraizoz and break the ice, giving Barça a 1–0 lead.

Fine goalkeeping

Suárez and Aduriz were stoned at opposite ends of the pitch on ensuing plays, with keepers Claudio Bravo and Iraizoz making spectacular plays to prevent goals. In the 26th, Suárez took a touch-pass from Messi and one-timed from out in front on the edge of the area to make it 2–0. Four minutes later a couple more chances came up empty, as Neymar and Suárez were both denied in quick succession during a wild scramble in front of the net.

Athletic went out on a quick counter that had Aduriz beating Mathieu on a jump ball to hit the post. Barça spent the next five minutes stringing together a countless number of passes that saw the Basques exhaustingly give chase.

Breakneck pace

After the break, the San Mamés crowd got behind their side. Things broke into a roar on 59 minutes as Mikel Rico picked up a rebound in front and tapped home to cut the lead in half. But just three minutes later, Messi redirected a cross off Athletic’s Óscar De Marcos for an own-goal that extended the lead to 3–1. Two minutes after that, in the 64th, Neymar took a pass from Messi on the left of the area and one-timed back across the goal mouth past a diving keeper into the bottom right corner to make it 4–1.

Nevertheless, Athletic Club got one right back on 67 minutes as Aduriz beat Bravo. The goal capped a breakneck seven-minute sequence that saw Athletic and Barça combine for four goals.

In the 75th, Xabier Etxeita was given a straight red card after a hard boot right to the knee of Suárez, who limped off. Suárez turned out to be okay, and came back on briefly before coming out for Pedro in the 80th. With Athletic down to ten men, Pedro took a pass from Busquets and scored Barça’s fifth of the evening in the 86th.

[[BOTOVERMELL::ATH V FCB STATS++::http://www.fcbarcelona.com/football/first-team/match-archive/2014-2015/league/round-22/athletic-club_fc-barcelona/stas-athletic-club-fc-barcelona::HOR::::NO-TRACKING::::::]]

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