Lionel Messi again reaches 25 league goals as Barcelona beat Athletic
Barcelona 2 - 0 Athletic

Lionel Messi again reaches 25 league goals as Barcelona beat Athletic

19/03/2018

Lionel Messi scored for the sixth consecutive game in all competitions as Barcelona tightened their grip in the title race with a 2-0 La Liga win over Athletic Bilbao.

Messi reached 25 league goals for the ninth consecutive season and took his tally in all competitions to 38 with a fine finish from the edge of the penalty area.

Paco Alcacer had already given the hosts the lead at the Camp Nou, and the leaders went on to canter to a routine victory against an Athletic side grateful they were not more soundly beaten.

Barca were missing Luis Suarez through suspension but the Uruguay striker's absence did not seem to affect them too much.

They took the lead after only eight minutes, with Messi predictably at the heart of the move.

The Argentina international, fresh from his two goals in the Champions League win over Chelsea on Wednesday, danced his way into the area before laying the ball off to Jordi Alba.

Alba reached the byline before cutting the ball back to Alcacer, who was left with a simple side-foot finish past Athletic goalkeeper Kepa.

Philippe Coutinho was inches from doubling the hosts' lead moments later when he met another Alba cut-back with a volley that crashed back off the crossbar.

Messi had already had a couple of sighters when he got on the scoresheet on the half-hour mark.

Ousmane Dembele picked out his strike partner, who had been left unmarked lurking on the edge of the penalty area, and Messi punished the visitors by drilling the ball unerringly into the bottom corner.

Coutinho was denied by the woodwork again before half-time when his lob grazed the crossbar.

The second half was played at almost a testimonial pace with Barcelona content to knock the ball around at their leisure.

Barca seemed to react to the crowd urging them forward and Messi tried his luck from the edge of the box again, but this time Kepa was able to hold his deflected effort.

Nevertheless, Barca were never in danger of losing their unbeaten record this season as boss Ernesto Valverde masterminded a comfortable victory against his former club.

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