Barça show winners’ character (2-1)
Barça had to dig deep to overcome Athletic Bilbao at the Nou Camp tonight. An early David Villa opener and a 77th minute Messi goal gave them the win which reinforces their position at the top of the table.
This may not have been Barça at their most fluent, but the team showed great pride and sacrifice, as well as determination to bounce back from the disappointments in Gijon and London as they worked hard for this win. Despite Villa’s early strike, Athletic defended well and pushed Barça with a second half penalty equaliser. In the end, Messi got the winner that a dominant Barça deserved and they once again have a five point lead at the top of the table.
Bilbao came back to the Nou Camp after managing two draws against Barça in the Cup and plumped for a similarly conservative tactic to the one they employed in the goalless first leg in Barcelona. For Barça, Piqué, Busquets and Abidal took charge of Bilbao’s sole striker Llorente and the rest of the team dedicated themselves to attack, with Alves and Pedro opening up the flanks and the rest working their magic through the middle.
It was the Brazilian who helped set up Villa’s fourth minute goal, crossing for the Spanish striker after Xavi had played him in beautifully.
That early setback didn’t change Bilbao’s tactics though and they ceded possession to the hosts, sitting back in their own half whilst Barça kept the ball patiently. After a long build up, Busquets put Villa through on 25 minutes, only for his chip to hit the woodwork.
Pinto answers the call
Barça were on top, but Bilbao showed they could pose a threat on the break: Susaeta shot into the side netting on 12 minutes and Llorente drew a great flying save from Pinto on 36. Valdes’ replacement put in a great performance and that was one of the saves of the season.
After the break, with Toquero on to give Caparros’ team a more attacking look, the Basques’ threat turned real when Iraola fired home a 50th minute penalty. Leo Messi led the Barça reaction and was unlucky not to be awarded a penalty himself on 59 minutes after a trade mark individual action. Iniesta and Messi were threatening through the centre, whilst Alves was making the right side his own.
Barça were now laying siege to the Bilbao area and only a finger tip stop from Iraizoz on 69 minutes stopped Villa from claiming his second, before Messi put away yet another Alves cross to give Barça the lead on 77. There was no sitting back from the leaders though, who continued to threaten and stay true to their creed that the best way to defend is to attack!