Ronald Koeman mentioned Barcelona can still win La Liga after Lionel Messi scored twice on Wednesday in a 3-2 win over Athletic Bilbao. Messi’s double helped Barca cut back the hole behind La Liga’s leaders Atletico Madrid to seven factors, even when Atletico might be arduous to catch, given in addition they have two video games in hand. Koeman admitted final week it could be “very troublesome” to shut the hole however was extra optimistic after the victory at San Mames. “There’s all the time an opportunity,” he mentioned. “The season could be very lengthy and you may have ups and downs. It might be that one group that’s doing very effectively will later discover it troublesome.”
Barca trailed to an early Inaki Williams strike however responded with a slick attacking efficiency that had Messi on the coronary heart of it.
It was his cross that led to Pedri’s equaliser after which the Argentinian may have had a hat-trick, just for VAR and the woodwork to intervene.
However this was a classic show from the 33-year-old, maybe his better of the season to date, at a time when his future at Barcelona stays up within the air.
Solely a late mistake took among the shine off Messi’s evening, a poor cross permitting Iker Muniain to complete and make the outcome look nearer than it was.
Bilbao had scored within the third minute and the 90th, every time exposing Barcelona’s defensive frailties that stay unsolved.
But in between, Koeman’s group have been in a position to dictate the match and exhibit why going ahead they’re nonetheless a pressure to be reckoned with.
‘Staff is rising’
“The group is rising, enjoying with extra confidence,” mentioned Koeman. “Generally we glance near our greatest.”
Pedri was wonderful once more, his luxurious backheel for Messi’s first aim one other indication of the 18-year-old’s expertise and his understanding along with his captain.
Ousmane Dembele, in the meantime, loved a kind of virtuouso nights the place his velocity, invention and confidence made him look each bit like one of many world’s most enjoyable gamers.
“All the things begins with the participant himself,” mentioned Koeman. “He provides us rather a lot.”
Bilbao have been enjoying their first sport below new coach Marcelino Garcia Toral, who led Valencia to win the final accomplished Copa del Rey by beating Barca within the remaining.
He was springing off the bench and clenching his fists within the third minute after Williams raced in behind, touching contained in the scrambling Clement Lenglet earlier than driving house.
However Barcelona have been invigorated.
Sergino Dest ought to have scored after a neat alternate between Messi and Antoine Griezmann earlier than Pedri did, Messi’s looping cross to the again submit cushioned again throughout for Pedri to nod in.
Dembele was nearly unplayable, drifting inside one minute and darting ahead the subsequent but it surely was Pedri’s imaginative and prescient that created Barca’s second.
Messi despatched him via, the teen slicing inside earlier than seeing Messi behind him.
Pedri backheeled, wrongfooting the Bilbao defence and goalkeeper, with Messi sliding within the end.
Griezmann was denied after extra good work by Dembele whereas Messi had a aim dominated out after which nicked the crossbar with a curling effort from distance.
Bilbao have been nonetheless in it and may need equalised early within the second half, with the energetic Williams and Raul Garcia each going shut.
But their hopes have been dashed simply after the hour when Messi struck once more. He despatched the ball extensive to Griezmann by way of Pedri and when the cross got here to the close to submit Messi was there to stroke in off the crossbar.
Messi may have had his hat-trick however hit the submit once more when Dembele’s cross was dummied by Griezmann earlier than a misplaced Messi cross allowed Muniain to tug one again for Bilbao. It was Messi’s first mistake of the evening.
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