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Feb 8, 2015 at 8pm UK at ​San Mames
Athletic Bilbao
2-5
Barcelona
Rico (59'), Aduriz (66')
Etxeita (75')
FT(HT: 0-2)
Messi (15'), Suarez (26'), De Marcos (62'), Neymar (64'), Pedro (86')

Match Analysis: Athletic Bilbao 2-5 Barcelona

Sports Mole dissects the 90 minutes of action as Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao 5-2 in La Liga.

Barcelona moved to within one point of La Liga leaders Real Madrid with a 5-2 win at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

The visitors led 2-0 at the interval following goals from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Bilbao had one back through Mikel Rico just before the hour, but three minutes later, Barca had their third when Oscar de Marcos turned in a goal-bound effort from Messi.

Barca then scored a fourth when Neymar converted from inside the box, but Bilbao quickly responded through Aritz Aduriz for 4-2 during what was an end-to-end period of the match.

Bilbao could not force a late rally, however, and finished the game with 10 men following a red card for Xabier Etxeita before Pedro added a fifth for the visitors.

Here, Sports Mole dissects the 90 minutes of action between the two Spanish rivals.

Match statistics

BILBAO
Shots: 15
On target: 6
Possession: 27%
Corners: 4
Fouls: 15

BARCA
Shots: 19
On target: 11
Possession: 73%
Corners: 4
Fouls: 10

Was the result fair?

There are obviously a number of talking points following the match, but there is no question that Barcelona deserved to run out comfortable winners at San Mames. Bilbao had some good moments in the first period, but trailed 2-0 at the interval following goals from Messi and Suarez. The atmosphere changed when Rico made it 2-1, but before they could blink, Barca had scored another two goals for 4-1. There was to be a slight response as Aduriz netted for 4-2, but it was never going to be anything other than a consolation for the hosts, who simply could not deal with Barca's attack on their own patch.

Bilbao actually had 15 attempts - six of which were on target - and they can take some positives from their work in the final third. However, Barca had 11 attempts on target and but for some excellent goalkeeping, it could have been more comprehensive. Indeed, some will argue that five goals flattered the visitors after what occurred in the second period, but Barca could have been four or five ahead at the interval. It was a truly dominant performance from the Catalan outfit.

Bilbao's performance

Bilbao have struggled for results this season, especially at home, but they entered this match with a strong recent record against Barcelona at San Mames. They had some bright moments in the early stages, but it was always the type of match where they needed to score first in order to stand a chance. Aduriz hit the post in their best chance of the first period, but the damage had been done down the other end as Barca led 2-0 at the interval. When Rico scored for 2-1, the hosts should have settled on the ball, but they were blown away in such a short space of time by an excellent attack.

Better teams than Bilbao have struggled to deal with Luis Enrique's side this season, but head coach Ernesto Valverde will be disappointed with the way that his side collapsed in such a short space of time. In fairness, Aduriz had another one back for the home side, but their challenge ended when they were reduced to 10 men. The performances of Aduriz and Rico will provide positives for the Basque team and their supporters, but on another day, they might have conceded double the final score. That said, how Bilbao fare in the second half of the season is not going to depend on their results against the top teams.

Barca's performance

It would be fair to say that Barca have had their problems this season, but nine straight wins in all competitions suggests that Enrique is now getting it right at the Camp Nou. It must be said that there were a couple of negatives, with some poor defending handing Bilbao two goals and it is indeed the third time in their last three matches that they have conceded twice. That said, this performance was all about Barca's attacking threat. Neymar, Suarez and Messi were all exceptional, with Bilbao simply struggling to contain the threat of arguably the best forward line in modern football.

The first period was comfortable for the visitors and in truth, they played the majority of the second half in second gear. Well, until they needed to raise the tempo. After Rico scored for Bilbao, it was almost as if Barca flicked a switch, with the visitors scoring twice in the space of two minutes and killing the match. As discussed above, the final score could have been much more comfortable, with Neymar guilty of missing a hat-trick of chances late on. In midfield, Xavi turned back the years with a stunning performance, while Gerard Pique had a strong game at the back. They have had to play catch-up to Real Madrid for a large part of this season, but now just one point separates the top two teams in Spain's leading division.

Sports Mole's man of the match

Lionel Messi: What more can be said about the Argentine? Officially, he scored just once after opening the scoring with an excellent free kick. However, it was the attacker's goal-bound attempt that De Marcos turned home for 3-1, while Messi also set up two more, before playing a big part in the fourth. It was just about as good as it gets.

Biggest gaffe

Neymar had a brilliant match for the visitors, but the Brazilian was a little guilty of showboating in the latter stages. The attacker had three golden chances late on, but tried two extravagant chips, before firing at the Bilbao goalkeeper from close range. It is not a dig at the former Santos forward, who was sensational, but he passed up some excellent opportunities to add to his tally.

Referee performance

Antonio Mateu actually only issued four yellow cards, but the referee was forced to award a red after 75 minutes when Etxeita brought Suarez to the ground with a horrendous challenge. It was the correct decision from the official and Bilbao will have little complaints when reviewing the footage. The hosts seemed unhappy with a number of Mateu's decisions, but there were no real talking points and the Spaniard allowed the match to flow whenever possible.

What next?

Bilbao: Valverde's side host Espanyol in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final on Wednesday. They then travel to Granada in the league on Saturday.

Barca: Barca are also in Copa del Rey semi-final action on Wednesday as they welcome Villarreal for the first leg. Next up for the Catalan outfit in the league is a home match with Levante on Sunday.

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Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring during the Spanish league football match against Athletic Club Bilbao on February 8, 2015
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