Laliga : Barcelona 1-0 Athletic Club Match Report , Match Events

Barcelona 1-0 Athletic Club: Messi assists Rakitic in hard-fought win

Ivan Rakitic sprang from the bench to score the goal that nudged Barcelona ahead of Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga.

Match Report

        Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic scored his first goal of the season to give his side a 1-0 win at home to Athletic Bilbao on Thursday, averting a second successive draw which would have further dented the champions' La Liga title defence.

Barca had slipped off the top of the table after Friday's 0-0 draw at Sevilla and put in another sluggish display at an empty Camp Nou, as the star-studded front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann failed to sparkle.

They finally found a way through in the 71st minute when Messi slipped the ball into the path of Croatia midfielder Rakitic, who had only been on the pitch for six minutes and kept his nerve to beat Athletic's in-form goalkeeper Unai Simon.

The win took Barca to the top of the standings on 68 points although Real Madrid, on 65, will reclaim their lead due to their superior head-to-head record if they beat Real Mallorca at home on Wednesday.

"It was very tough for us to take control of the game, Athletic are a very tough side and did not make it easy for us but I'm delighted to score my first goal of the season," Rakitic said.

"Thirty one league games is a very long time to wait and I'm angry it has taken so long but I'm happy I was able to help the team."

Athletic have beaten Barca in the league and Copa del Rey this season and produced a disciplined display as well as crafting a couple of clear chances of their own.

Striker Inaki Williams should have done better when he got a clear sight of goal but lost his footing as he shaped to shoot, while defender Yeray Alvarez came close with a powerful header.

Griezmann was thwarted by Simon midway through the second half and the 120-million-euro forward was taken off soon after, looking glum after another unconvincing display.

He was replaced by 17-year-old Ansu Fati who almost had an instant impact, heading just over the bar.

Barca were suddenly playing with more freedom and Messi's quick-thinking and Rakitic's cool finish finally broke down Athletic's defence.

The Catalans will be without midfielder Sergio Busquets for their next match at Celta Vigo on Saturday after he earned a suspension, leaving them with no natural holding midfielders as Frenkie de Jong is injured.

Match Events

15' MISS! Suarez's shot wide out

Another opportunity for Suarez! The striker was played through on the right and fired a shot towards the bottom left-hand corner of the net. However, he drags it well wide of the Bilbao goal.

21' CLOSE! Yeray's header wide out

CHANCE! Alvarez should've opened the scoring for Bilbao! The visitors won a free-kick midway in the Barca half, after Williams is fouled by Lenglet. The ball is superbly whipped into the penalty area by Lopez and Alvarez loses his marker and meets the cross, powering his header towards the top corner. However, he somehow turns the ball over the bar. Great opportunity.

54' CLOSE! Griezmann's shot denied by Simon

71' GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Athletic Club (Rakitic)

Barcelona break the deadlock, they lead 1-0! Rakitic fires them into the lead after the ball falls to him in the penalty area. Messi tried to work space for the shot himself, but just can't find the space and it fires out to Rakitic who was unmarked and he smashed it past Simon and into the back of the net.

80' NICE TRY! Messi's shot inches wide

CHANCE! Great run by Messi down the right, he cuts inside onto his left foot and tries to curl the ball into the bottom left-hand corner of the net. However, it flies just inches wide of the post.

89' AGAIN! Messi's long shot inches wide

Fati lays the ball off to Messi on the edge of the box, who tries to place it into the bottom left-hand corner of the net, but it takes a slight deflection and goes just wide of the post.

Man Of The Match

Leo Messi (Barcelona)

 Given A Assist In The Match

 Most Shots On The Match

 Most Chances Created In The Match

 Most Dribble Attempted

 Most Dribble Completed In The Match

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