Lionel Messi, Pedri and Frenkie de Jong were instrumental as Barcelona came from behind to beat Athletic Bilbao 3-2 on Wednesday.

Barcelona made the worst possible start to the game, as Inaki Williams put Athletic Bilbao ahead in the third minute, beating Marc-Andre ter Stegen from just inside the box after evading a half-hearted challenge by Clement Lenglet. The visitors, though, slowly grew into the game after Bilbao dominated the early exchanges.

The game was back on level terms in the 14th minute, when Frenkie de Jong showed tremendous awareness and movement to latch onto Lionel Messi’s long pass before looping the ball towards an unmarked Pedri, who headed the ball into the net. Pedri then turned provider, as he set Messi up for a tap-in seven minutes from the break after catching Unai Simon wrong-footed.

Barcelona continued to push forward and create the chances and it was Messi who was on the score sheet again just past the hour mark, as he was in the right place at the right time to convert Antoine Griezmann’s cut-back. Messi was denied twice by the woodwork as well and it was a wonder how Barcelona had not put the score beyond Bilbao’s reach heading into the final quarter of the game.

Bilbao did get hopes of a late comeback when captain Iker Muniain scored a brilliant long-range goal in the final minute of regulation time. Barcelona, though, held on to collect all three points and move up to third on the La Liga table. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ronald Koeman’s men following a crucial win over Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 6/10

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There were other Barcelona stars who were more culpable for the opening goal that Inaki Williams scored. However, for the quality that he has, ter Stegen could have done better to parry away the effort from the Athletic Bilbao striker. However, he made a couple of saves to ensure Barcelona kept their lead intact. Could not have done anything to deny Iker Muniain, though.

Sergino Dest: 6/10

Dest made a poor start to the game and it was he who lost the ball higher up the pitch before Bilbao unleashed the express counter-attack that resulted in the first goal. Thereafter, though, he did not really put a foot wrong defensively, winning each of the 3 ground duels he contested. But, this was another match wherein his end product was not up to scratch. Needs to address that.

Ronald Araujo: 7/10

The best of the lot at the back for Barcelona, Araujo put in a couple of critical crunching tackles, made 4 clearances and a couple of interceptions while winning 6 of the 7 duels he contested. Showed his improving qualities on the ball, losing possession just 4 times while looking to push Barcelona forward.

Clement Lenglet: 6/10

In a forgettable start to the game, Lenglet left a lot to be desired with his half-hearted challenge to stop Inaki Williams in his tracks. Thereafter, though, the Frenchman cleaned up well and was particularly imposing in the air. Precise as ever with the ball at his feet, misplacing just 5 passes.

Jordi Alba: 6.5/10

This was a very un-Alba like performance by the Spaniard, who did not get many chances to fashion the opportunities. Did end up creating one big chance and was involved in the build-up to Lionel Messi’s second goal, but hardly posed a threat otherwise. Defensively, he was quite solid and made as many as 6 interceptions.

Pedri: 9/10

There is just no stopping the little genius, who was once again heavily involved in the final third. The teenage prodigy was first in the right place at the right time to head in the equaliser for Barcelona. The ingenious moment of the night, though, saw Pedri set Messi up for his first with a clever back-heel flick after catching Unai Simon wrong-footed. Created 2 more chances as well.

Sergio Busquets: 6/10

A game of hits and misses for Busquets. The veteran midfielder unnecessarily left the Barcelona defenders high and dry after charging up to close the space in the lead up to Bilbao’s first. For the rest of the game, though, there were hardly any complaints from him, although his lack of mobility does restrict him a great deal these days. Tidy as ever in possession and played some clever balls.

Frenkie de Jong: 9/10

It seems like de Jong is slowly but surely coming into his own at Barcelona and his stock continued to rise on Wednesday. The Dutchman displayed brilliant movement and fine awareness to set Pedri up for his goal. Later in the game, de Jong could have grabbed another assist, only for Messi to not find the back of the net. Typically put in a shift off the ball, completing 6 interceptions.

Antoine Griezmann: 8/10

Griezmann’s search for a goal continued against Bilbao, but this was a superb performance by the Frenchman nonetheless. The 2018 FIFA World Cup winner was purposeful in his display, charging forward resolutely.

On another day, he might have found the back of the net but on Wednesday, he did set Messi up for his second with a smart cut-back. As always, did not shy away from defensive duties, making a staggering, game-high 8 recoveries.

Lionel Messi: 9/10

A near-perfect performance by Messi. Looking much more driven, Messi opened up play expertly in the build-up to Pedri’s goal. He then produced two brilliant finishes to grab a brace. On another day, the Barcelona captain could have even celebrated a hat-trick, with two of his shots hitting the woodwork. However, Messi gave the ball away for Bilbao’s second, in his only blip on the night.

Ousmane Dembele: 7/10

Yet another impressive showing by Dembele, despite the fact that he did not score a goal or provide an assist. Dembele, though, provided a much-needed injection of energy in the final third, bringing something different to the table as compared to the others around him. The Frenchman drove at the Bilbao defenders at every given opportunity and engineered 3 openings as well. Superb.

SUBSTITUTES

Oscar Mingueza: N/A

On for Dest with 15 minutes left, Mingueza was largely solid in the final phase of the game.

Martin Braithwaite: N/A

Braithwaite replaced Dembele in the 75th minute and pressed effectively higher up the pitch, but did not play enough to warrant a rating.

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