Athletic 2-3 Barcelona: Barca hold on to win, as Lionel Messi scores two

Lionel Messi-Antoine Griezmann-Barcelona

Barcelona made it two wins from the two La Liga games on Wednesday evening as they held on to secure all three points against Athletico Bilboa in their 17th league match of the season.

Ronald Koeman’s men moved up to third place following the win, with a Pedri effort and Messi brace enough to take their season’s tally to 31 points despite a late fightback from the hosts who played their first game under new head coach Marcelino.

Barcelona began the game with their favoured 4-3-3 formation, with Antonio Griezmann replacing Martin Braithwaite in the starting eleven.

But it was the home team who came out flying in the game, and they were ahead within 180 seconds with Inaki Williams scoring the first goal of the new regime.

With Barcelona playing a high line, Raul Garcia sent a perfect through-ball to Inaki Williams, who beat the Barcelona offside-trap to break the deadlock.

Marcelino’s side could have doubled their lead two minutes later after going on a fast counter through Berchiche, but the left-back could only hit the side netting to hand a reprieve to Barcelona, as Koeman’s side was playing a very high-line.

Despite their poor start, the visitors took control of the game and were level in the 14th minute through Pedri. The youngster was on hand to nod home from a Frankie de Jong cross in the box.

The game continued to be played quickly, with seven shots recorded between both sides within the first 20 minutes. But it was Barcelona who would control the bulk of the possession. They were rewarded for their patience in the 38th minute as Lionel Messi sent them ahead with a cool finish following a back-heeled pass from the impressive Pedri. The goal was Messi’s 24th goal involvement against Athletic Bilboa in 26 La Liga outings.

The Argentine made it 25 goal involvements in 26 La Liga matches in the 62nd minute with an exquisite finish following a quick exchange of passes with Antonio Griezmann in the box.

The goal was the least Argentine deserved following an impressive showing in the second half, and he could have had a hat-trick but was denied by the post in the 72nd minute his third in the game).

His miss nearly proved costly as the home team pulled one back in the 90th minute through Iker Munian. Alex Berenguer capitalised on a sloppy Barca backpass to release Munian who beat Ter Stegen with an outstanding effort into the far bottom corner.

In the end, the goal was just a consolation as Barca held on to take home all three points and climb up to third on the table with 31 points.

The result means that Marcelino becomes the first Athletic Bilboa coach since Mane in 2006 to lose on his debut.

Bilbao face league leaders Atletico Madrid next on Saturday. Barcelona host Granada on the same day.