Sports

Dynamic Messi gets 8/10 as Barcelona go second in La Liga


Barcelona moved up to second in La Liga after goals from Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann helped them beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 at Camp Nou on Sunday.

Messi opened the scoring with a brilliant free kick in the 20th minute, but Athletic leveled through a Jordi Alba own goal early in the second half.

Griezmann struck the winner with 15 minutes to play, turning home an Oscar Mingueza cross as Barca stretched their unbeaten run in the league to 10 games.

Positives

Barca may not win the league this season — they’re 10 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid and have played a game more — but, as coach Ronald Koeman said on Saturday, they’re going to keep fighting. Sunday’s win against Athletic was their fifth in a row in La Liga and took them ahead of Real Madrid into second on goal difference.

Messi’s free kick was 650th goal for the club and came on the day sources told ESPN he will take legal action against newspaper El Mundo and whoever was behind the leaking of his potential new contract details this weekend, which revealed a four-year deal worth a maximum of €555 million.

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Negatives

Barca still look frail at the back and are unable to put teams to bed. They played well in the first half, but only had one goal to show for their efforts and were soon level at the start of the second half. In the end, they were hanging on to the three points and counting down the four minutes of stoppage time.

Manager rating out of 10

6 — Koeman has found a settled system in recent weeks so the only changes were in terms of personnel, with Miralem Pjanic replacing the suspended Sergio Busquets and Samuel Umtiti coming in for Clement Lenglet. The Dutch coach opted to defend the game out rather than push for a third goal.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 7 — Had very few saves to make, but dealt with Athletic’s crosses well.

DF Oscar Mingueza, 6 — Raul Garcia got in behind him to set up the Athletic goal, but he made amends by putting the winner on a plate for Griezmann.

DF Ronald Araujo, 7 — Almost scored in the first half, driving a shot just wide after a surging run forward. Did well at the back.

DF Samuel Umtiti, 7 — His quality on the ball is a huge plus for this Barca side. However, he now needs to prove himself defensively over a run of games. This was his third straight appearance in the league, which is a good start.

DF Jordi Alba, 6 — Moaned that he was pushed for the own goal, but should have defended it better.

MF Miralem Pjanic, 6 — Forced a good save from Unai Simon with a header just before being taken off midway through the second half.

MF Frenkie de Jong, 7 — Played deeper than recently to cover the absence of Busquets, although still found time for one great driving run forward in the first half.

MF Pedri, 7 — The teenager’s shown in recent weeks what he adds in attack; against Athletic he also showed how well he can perform his defensive duties. Tireless.

FW Ousmane Dembele, 7 — Caused constant problems with his acceleration from a standing start and played a smart pass to Mingueza in the build-up to Griezmann’s goal.

FW Antoine Griezmann, 7 — Came close to setting up a couple of goals with passes for Messi and Pjanic before scoring the winner with a good first-time finish.

FW Lionel Messi, 8 — Started the game well, drawing a save from Simon and chesting another half-chance onto the roof of the net. Opened the scoring with a fine free kick, his 16th goal of the season in all competitions and 650th in his career in Catalonia, and was Barca’s best player on the night.

Substitutes

MF Sergi Roberto, 6 — Returned to action in midfield after two months out injured.

DF Clement Lenglet, NR — Koeman introduced the Frenchman to add an extra defender late on.

FW Martin Braithwaite, NR — Replaced Dembele for the final few minutes.



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