Lionel Messi and Pedri magic see Barcelona beat Athletic Club and move into third
La Liga, San Mames – Athletic Club 2 (Williams 3’, Muniain 90') FC Barcelona 3 (Pedri 14’, Messi 38’, 62’)
Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates 1-2 with Pedri of FC Barcelona during the La Liga Santander match between Athletic de Bilbao v FC Barcelona at the Estadio San Mames on January 6, 2021 in Bilbao Spain
Marcelino started his Athletic Club tenure with a 3-2 home defeat to Barcelona as the Catalans came from behind to lift themselves up to third place in La Liga.
It took Athletic Club just three minutes to open the scoring, with Inaki Williams played in behind the Barcelona defence by Raul Garcia to calmly finish underneath Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, scoring the first goal of the Marcelino era.
Their lead lasted just 11 minutes though as Frenkie de Jong hooked a deep cross back into the middle from the byline for Pedri to convert with his head with Unai Simon and the Athletic Club defence ball-watching.
Pedri of FC Barcelona celebrates 1-1 with Antoine Griezmann of FC Barcelona during the La Liga Santander match between Athletic de Bilbao v FC Barcelona at the Estadio San Mames on January 6, 2021 in Bilbao Spain
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And Barcelona completed the turnaround after 38 minutes when Lionel Messi and Pedri combined brilliantly, with the former passing into the back of the net as Simon was caught out of position.
A third goal was added after the hour-mark, with Messi crashing a finish in off the underside of the bar after being set up for the shot inside the box by Antoine Griezmann following good build up play by Pedri.
A late Iker Muniain goal gave Athletic Club a lifeline, but Barca held on for the win which lifts them above Real Sociedad and Villarreal in the La Liga table and to within five points of Real Madrid and seven of pace-setters Atletico Madrid.
TALKING POINT - More signs of the growing relationship between Lionel Messi and Pedri
Pedri continues to grow in stature as a Barcelona player and one of the biggest positives of his emergence this season is the relationship he has forged with Messi. These two players are on the same wavelength, as demonstrated in the build-up play for Barca’s second goal. At a time when Messi is giving thought to his future at the Camp Nou, Pedri could be an influence on the Argentine. Messi looks to have been rejuvenated by playing alongside the teenager. He is smiling again!
Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the Spanish League football match between Atheltic Bilbao and Barcelona at the San Mames Stadium in Bilbao on January 6, 2021.
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MAN OF THE MATCH - Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Messi is back. This was a vintage display from the Argentine who has played within himself for much of the 2020/21 season. Messi now has eight goals in his last 10 games and came within the width of the woodwork of a hat trick this evening. Barcelona are a different team when Messi is playing well. This is a result that lifts the Catalans up to third place in La Liga. There is still a lot of work to be done to salvage their season, but with Messi in this sort of form Barca simply cannot be ruled out of title contention. Not yet, anyway.
Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates 1-2 during the La Liga Santander match between Athletic de Bilbao v FC Barcelona at the Estadio San Mames on January 6, 2021 in Bilbao Spain
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Athletic Club - Simon 5, Capa 6, Nunez 5, Martinez 6, Yuri 4, De Marcos 4, Vencedor 5, Vesga 5, Muniain 7, R. Garcia 5, Williams 7. Subs - Balenziaga 5, D. Garcia 5, Berenguer 3.
Barcelona - Ter Stegen 5, Dest 6, Araujo 6, Lenglet 5, Alba 6, Busquets 4, De Jong 7, Pedri 8, Messi 9, Dembele 6, Griezmann 7. Subs - Mingueza, Braithwaite.
3’ GOAL! Athletic Club 1-0 Barcelona: What a start for the Marcelino era as Athletic Club manager! Garcia played the pass in behind and Williams was away! Barcelona couldn't catch him and Williams cut inside to guide a low finish underneath Ter Stegen! Good composure!
14’ GOAL! Athletic Club 1-1 Barcelona: Barcelona have an equaliser! They are back on level terms! Simon didn't know whether to come off his line or stay back, de Jong got on the end of a deep cross to the byline and squared a lofted pass for Pedri to head home into the empty net!
38’ GOAL! Athletic Club 1-2 Barcelona: The Catalans have turned this game around and it's Messi who has found the back of the net! The Argentine was set up for the finish by Pedri, but questions will be asked of Simon who looked to be out of position. And he slipped as well!
71’ Off the post! Just inches away from a Messi hat trick. Pedri with wonderful control, Griezmann leaves the ball for his teammate and Messi curls a strike off the woodwork. Brilliant play!
90’ GOAL! Athletic Club 2-3 Barcelona: A late goal and a lifeline for Athletic Club! It was Messi who gave the ball away inside his own half and he was made to pay, with Muniain sweeping home a nice finish from just inside the Barcelona box. Surely it's too late? Surely?!
At 18 years and 42 days old Pedri became the youngest player to register a goal and an assist in the same La Liga game played at San Mames.
Antoine Griezmann has scored more times against Athletic Club than any other side in La Liga (eight), but he hasn’t found the net against them since January 2017.