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Neymar Jr pounced on a defensive gaffe by Athletic Club to put FC Barcelona up 2–0 in the 25th minute on Wednesday night. / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

On Wednesday night at the San Mamés in Bilbao, all of the focus was on Neymar Jr. With Lionel Messi out for precautionary reasons and Luis Suárez idled due to sanction, FC Barcelona’s Brazilian marvel had the stage all to himself.  There was no trident. On this night it was a standard spear — or two.

Neymar seconded Munir as the evening’s two strikers staked Barça out to a 2–0 lead just past the midway point of the first half. If it weren’t for a late score by Athletic's Aritz Aduriz, the tie would be much closer to over.

“Athletic didn’t let us play our game in the second half,” Neymar said after the game. “They were better and the goal was their reward.”

But despite the late drama — as well as the possible consequences — Neymar was sanguine about Barça’s outlook. “Their goal might complicate things a little but I think we played a great game and now we have the return leg at home,” he said.

Besides Neymar, midfielders Andrés Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic also spoke to the media. Here are the highlights of what they had to say:

Andrés Iniesta:

"Sometimes when your opponents are down they really pour on the pressure and that always creates problems. But in general we can be happy.”

"We controlled the game in the first half but in the second they pressed and gave us more problems."

"It is really important to have a player like Sergi Roberto. The trust that the coach has in him is the same for us. He’s very young and he’ll certainly keep growing and helping us."

"Today’s win has a lot of merit. It was a complicated game and we had to play a very serious game and we did. Having players out is always felt but the team took the game very seriously."

"With the Arda and Aleix the team is more potent thanks to their versatility."

Ivan Rakitic

"We have to enjoy this victory but also start to prepare for the next game against Málaga."

“A very well deserved victory, the result of a lot of hard work. We are very happy with how we played today.”

“The result would have been better without their goal but I think we were the better team.”

“Athletic are always a very tough team, especially at their place.”



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