Barca overcomes a difficult Athletic

It was a hard-fought victory against Athletic Club de Bilbao (2-0) in an intense game from start to finish. It was a nice game to watch, just as Pep Guardiola predicted, and in which, the Catalan giants put in a great deal of physical work to offset the onslaught of the ‘lions’ that were eventually tamed and who paid the price for their majestic effort against Schalke 04 in the Europa League this week.

Athletic started to wither late in the game, when Barca already had full control of the party. Although Muniain had a 2-1 in the bag, the Catalans dominated the game and had the clearer chances, like Keita and Pedro who could have put the finishing touch on the game. Now both teams face the second leg of their respective European qualifiers.

Barca has their homework already done, and continues 6 points behind Real Madrid who steam-rollered a poor Osasuna 1-5, while Athletic can go and prepare for the clash against the Germans with the relative calm of a 2-4 result in the first leg and knowing that they gave everything they had and offer at the Nou Camp.

After their efforts in Europe this week, both trainers made four alterations in their squads to give freshness and not overburden the legs of the usual starters. Without a doubt, this allowed the pace to be frenetic and at times, with an incredible intensity. Good football was played by both clubs, as was expected before the match.

Athletic for their part were without their main stars Llorente, Muniain or Amorebieta and although put up a good fight, they surely missed Llorente up front to “bring it” to Barcelona. Toquero, was the first to pressure Barca couldn’t find the net and had no goal scoring chances neither did Ibai nor Susaeta for that matter. This was mainly because Barca managed to get control of the ball, dominate it and move it about how they liked. Pique and Mascherano were under orders to get the ball up field to create chances.

Chilean star Alexis tried to get on the score sheet and was very active at all times being provider to Messi and opening spaces. Behind Alexis, Thiago showed maturity with great tactical and physical skill next to a great Andrés Iniesta who opened the scoring on 39 minutes by shooting past Gorka.

Barcelona FC could have gone into half time with more goals, but the defensive attitude of Athletic Bilbao was very good with Javi Martinez covering all open spaces in the Bilbao defense. On the other hand, a restless Marcelo Bielsa brought on Ander Herrera and Iker Muniain after the break to try and change the “lions” luck.

The intention was to balance the field but as Barca had most of the ball and play, Bielsa’s strategy didn’t quite come off. So, just before Fernando Llorente came on to attempt a comeback, Messi put away second goal from the penalty spot after a dubious foul from Javi Martinez on Tello, who was cheered by the Barca crowd when Pedro came on to relieve him.

After the second goal the game started to calm down. Athletic, physically weaker than usual, could not push up field as before and couldn’t get the ball. Thus Athletic resorted to the big ball up field in search of a lonesome Llorente. Xavi came on for Iniesta and Keita to tidy up the midfield for a weary Alexis, who did a great job btw.

Athletic almost had the 2-1 in the bag when Pique cleared Muniain ‘s effort off the line with Valdes clearly beaten. The goal, which would have given Athletic some “air” was not to be and come to think of it neither was a third goal coming Barca’s way anytime soon.

About Aaron

My name's Aaron and I'm a great Barça fan. I like to tell it like it is and if there is something I don't like about the club or something that needs addressing, you'll know!

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