He did it last time out when his dying moments free-kick goal earned Barcelona a point at Villarreal and Leo Messi repeated the similar feat on Wednesday night as his goals proved to be a splitting difference in his team’s last-16 Copa del Rey return leg against Athlletic Bilbao.
Goals by Suarez (who scored his 100th for Barcelona) Neymar (who broke the jinx by scoring after more than 1,000 minutes) and Messi were enough to dispatch the resilient Basque side in an eventful and exciting match at Camp Nou.
Read our in-depth match report right down here:
Form Guide & Team News
Barcelona headed in the second leg of their Copa del Rey last-16 tie against Athletic Bilbao looking to overturn the 2-1 deficit from the first match and claim their place in the quarter-finals of the Cup competition.
Additionally, Luis Enrique’s men were looking to bounce back from the two-match winless mini-run which ended up frustrating the Catalans, who failed to show up at the FIFA gala in Zurich last week.
Hosts had no selection issues to worry about as Jasper Cillessen resumed full training and got his chance to shine on the big night. French defender Jeremy Matheu also got back from his lengthy injury but was left out of the team.
Athletic Bilbao were hoping their rich vein of form, which saw the Basque side win three of the last four matches in all competition, will be extended to Camp Nou where Athletic arrived on the back of a 2-1 win from the previous leg. Games against Barcelona are traditionally openly-contested and Athletic were hoping to pull a major coup and win successive games against the big rivals.
Raul Garcia and Ander Itturaspe were sent off in the first leg and were suspended for the return clash, whereas first-choice goalkeeper Kepa picked up a muscle injury which allowed veteran goalie Iraizoz to continue his Cup spell.
The first 45 minutes at Camp Nou turned out to be extremely entertaining.
Barcelona players will have been rather pleased with the way they opened the game against Athletic Bilbao as they pretty much made good use of their on-pitch dominance. The Catalans warmed up nicely in the opening stages through Luis Suarez and Neymar who was at the time still waiting for his first Barcelona goal in 1,000 minutes.
Luis Enrique’s men thought they’d gone up when Luis Suarez slipped the ball into the net after a well-played attack and an assist from Neymar, but the Brazilian was ruled offside, quite undeservedly to be honest as the replays showed that Barcelona talisman might just have been onside.
No harm was done in the bigger picture though as the Catalans ended up breaking the deadlock in the first half, with ten minutes on the clock.
The hosts pushed down the left flank with Neymar making great run past his marker and firing a cross to the back-post where Luis Suarez met the ball with a flying volley that sent the ball into the far corner for a beautiful 100th goal for Barcelona for the Uruguay striker.
Barcelona looked in control after first 45 minutes and seemed to be on course to nail a big win over Athletic Bilbao.
Things went from bad to worse straight from the second-half kick-off at Camp Nou as it took Barcelona only two minutes to double the lead. The Catalans went flying in the second term with Neymar getting knocked down in the area after a fine run down the left.
The Brazilian took the responsibility from the white spot himself and delivered firmly and composedly for what appeared to be a great cushion at the time.
The visitors refused to go down without a fight and got back in the game straight away after scoring. Williams worked rather well on the right channel where he managed to break past the defence and cross the ball nicely to the back post.
Roberto attempted to latch on it, but Saborit rose above his marker and sent the ball in the back of the net with an impressive flying header.
Tempers flared up as the game got back to square one with both teams more than eager to finish their job as soon as possible. And just like it happened countless times before and last week most recently, it was Leo Messi who stepped up the plate.
The Argentine wizard stepped in to take the free kick won by Suarez just outside the area and did his magic much to the pleasing of the home fans.
Messi used the decoys of Busquets and Iniesta in the wall to distract the Athletic goalkeeper, place the ball into the bottom corner and send his team into the quarter-final of the Copa del Rey.
- Barcelona dominated possession with 65% to Athletic’s 35%
- The Catalans made 14 goal attempts to Basque’s 4
- Luis Enrique scored his 100th goal for Barcelona
- Neymar bagged his first goal for Barca after more than 1,000 dry minutes
- Messi scores two free-kick goals in a row to help his team out
BARCELONA: Cillessen 6.5 – Roberto 6, Pique 7, Umtiti 6, Alba 6.5 – Rafinha 6.5 (Rakitic -), Busquets 7, Iniesta 7.5 (Turan -) – Messi 8, Suarez 8, Neymar 7.5 (Suarez D. -)
Unused Subs: Digne, Mascherano, Paco, ter Stegen.
ATHLETIC BILBAO: Iraizoz 6 – Boveda 5.5, Etxeita 6 (Elustondo 6), Laporte 6.5, Balenziaga 6 – Benat 6.5, San Jose 6 – Williams 7, Eraso 6.5, Saborit 7.5 (Susaeta 6) – Sabin 6 (Aduriz 6)
Unused Subs: Muniain, Rico, Simon, Vesga.
REFEREE: Jesus Gil Manzano
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