Lionel Messi produced his magic once again as Barcelona secured a vital 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao to climb to second place in La Liga.
FC Barcelona overtook Real Madrid and moved to second place in the Liga table after securing a narrow 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou on Sunday.
The hosts performed really well in the first half, controlling possession and creating a host of chances in and around the final third. However, their end product was far from impressive as it needed a magical free-kick from Lionel Messi to help them find the opener in the 20th minute.
Athletic Club showed a bit more panache after the restart, in search of an equaliser. The pressure paid off as well, as Marcelino’s men found the back of the net four minutes into half-time through an own goal from Jordi Alba, who could never really defend the cross from Raul Garcia. It was a panicking from the Barcelona fans.
Fortunately for them, though, their side continued to create chances and were eventually rewarded with a goal in the 74th minute when Antoine Griezmann tapped in an excellent cross Oscar Mingueza. The goal was enough to seal the win for the Catalans, who now overtake their arch-rivals Real Madrid in the league table.
Here, at the Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look at how the Barca players in their narrow triumph over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
Marc Andre ter Stegen: 6/10
Marc Andre ter Stegen largely had a quiet evening in between the sticks as Athletic Bilbao only mustered two shots on target. The Barcelona goalkeeper had no chance of saving Alba’s own goal from close range. His overall distribution, on the other hand, was top-notch, as ever. He will still be disappointed to have missed out on the clean sheet, though.
Oscar Mingueza: 6.5/10
Oscar Mingueza is certainly not the best fit at right-back and it was evident once again. The youngster had problems balancing his game between attack and defence, notably failing to mark Garcia for the goal. He did later make an excellent overlapping run to assist Griezmann’s winner, but Ronald Koeman needs to integrate the now-fit Sergi Roberto back into the right-back position immediately.
Ronald Araujo: 8/10
It was yet another imposing defensive display from Ronald Araujo. He remained strong at the back throughout the course of the game, using his physique and game-reading ability to neutralise the threat of Athletic Bilbao forwards. The youngster’s passing was also top-notch as he continues his rapid development under Koeman this season.
Ronald Araújo is the only player in Europe's top 5 leagues with over 900 minutes played, who hasn't been dribbled past at least once.
— SofaScore pic.twitter.com/w05BtKA7uH
— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) January 31, 2021
Samuel Umtiti: 7.5/10
Samuel Umtiti showed glimpses of his former self by occasionally moving out of his line and creating a turnover. In fact, one of them even led to an excellent chance for Barca. The Frenchman was not as impressive as Araujo defensively, but certainly a higher ceiling than Lenglet.
Jordi Alba: 6/10
Jordi Alba had a decent game on the left flank before a questionable own goal put a major dent in his performance. It was a poor error from the left-back who simply couldn’t remain steady and properly defend the cross from Garcia. He cannot afford to make such defensive errors, especially against a quality side like Athletic Bilbao.
Miralem Pjanic: 7/10
Starting in the absence of the suspended Sergio Busquets, Miralem Pjanic had a couple of loose moments in the game. But overall, the former Juventus midfielder did well to orchestrate the Barcelona midfield with his passing and movements. He denied Athletic the opportunity to dominate the possession but was taken off midway through the second half.
Frenkie de Jong: 8/10
It was yet another impressive performance from Frenkie de Jong, who continues to impress with his propensity to move forward and assist the attackers with his passing. This time, he linked up well with the likes of Messi and Pedri – making life difficult for the Athletic Bilbao defenders throughout the ninety minutes. One of the best players on the pitch.
Frenkie de Jong vs Athletic Bilbao(H):
79 passes (93%)
1 long pass
2/2 dribbles (100%)
5 ground duals won
2 aerial duals won
Another good game from the Dutch Maestro while playing in a much deeper role. His magical 2021 continues 🎩✨ pic.twitter.com/zQe0WXvnjy
— Frenkie News 🎙️ (@FrenkieNews) January 31, 2021
Ousmane Dembele: 7/10
Ousmane Dembele was a threat for the Bilbao defence with his trickery and pace on the flanks. The Frenchman, however, may have hoped for a bit more penetration in his game, as the winger most often struggled to come up with that groundbreaking pass to breach the opposition backline.
Pedri continues to impress with yet another influential performance in midfield. His determination to win back possession for his team, combined with his technical prowess made him the ideal number ten for FC Barcelona in this game. The youngster may have hoped for a bit more penetrations, but his efforts in the final third were truly commendable.
Antoine Griezmann: 8/10
Antoine Griezmann impressed the onlookers with a delightful display in the final third. He looked threatening every time he had the ball, with his one-touch passes and overall interplay with his teammates making life difficult for the opposition. The Frenchman’s link-up play with Messi, in particular, was eye-catching. He capped off his excellent display with a simple goal that proved to be the winner.
Lionel Messi: 8.5/10
After a disappointing performance last time out against Bilbao, Lionel Messi came back with a bang. It was his unstoppable free-kick that led to the Barcelona opener and the Argentine looked unplayable whenever he had the ball. He is still a vital asset in this Barcelona team and with his players around him constantly improving, it will be interesting to see how the Catalans fare during the second half of the campaign.
— Gary Lineker 💙 (@GaryLineker) January 31, 2021
Sergi Roberto: 7/10
Sergi Roberto made his return from injury when he replaced Pjanic midway through the second half. He played in a more central role, offering more utility and work-ethic in the Barcelona side. It will be interesting to see whether he can get the nod ahead of Mingueza at right-back in the next game.
Clement Lenglet: N/A
Clement Lenglet was introduced in the 84th minute as Ronald Koeman opted for more defensive bodies to preserve his team’s slender lead. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.
Martin Brathwaite: N/A
A late replacement for Dembele. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.