Barcelona earned three points against a resilient Athletic Club in La Liga to move joint-second in La Liga, Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann scoring the all important goals in what was the third meeting between the two sides in 2021.
La Blaugrana started the game on the front foot and were dominant in possession, pushing Bilbao back with continued attacks that blossomed from the left flank through Jordi Alba. Continued pressure and controlled possession earned them a free kick after 20 minutes, which was converted by Messi for his 650th Barcelona goal.
Athletic came out for the second half entirely refuelled, however, and caused Ronald Koeman's side plenty of problems with more intent pressing. They drew level after 49 minutes and the game opened up as a result, with Barcelona forcing a number of fine saves out of Unai Simon in goal.
Barça rode out a storm from Bilbao, who looked dangerous on the break, and regained control after 74 minutes, with Griezmann finishing after an excellent passage of passing football. Bilbao came knocking again, but to no avail, as Koeman's side held on for an important victory.
Right, enough chatter - here's the ratings from Barcelona's 2-1 win.
1. Goalkeeper & Defenders
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GK) - 6/10 - Ter Stegen was essentially the only fan in the stadium during the first half, barely getting his gloves dirty with very little to do other than watch. Not much different after the break, but did have to make one or two important stops.
Oscar Mingueza (RB) - 6/10 - Conservative first half and was caught sleeping at the start of the second half, which allowed Raul Garcia to cross in and force the equaliser. Recovered well, though, and fizzed in a fine assist to Griezmann at the other end.
Ronald Araujo (CB) - 6/10 - Ventured forward in the first half and struck a low, driven shot just wide of the far post in an otherwise quiet evening. Composed at the back when called into action.
Samuel Umtiti (CB) - 7/10 - When fit, Umtiti is a joy to watch and key for La Blaugrana. Endlessly composed when in possession and consistently switched on to stop attacks in wide areas when Jordi Alba was out of position.
Jordi Alba (LB) - 6/10 - Tireless performance from the Spaniard in the first half, bombing down the left flank to stretch Bilbao and allow Antoine Griezmann to drift inside. Nightmarish start after the break, scoring an own goal to draw the visitors level.
Miralem Pjanic (CM) - 7/10 - Authoritative display in the middle of the park from Pjanic, who turned quickly with the ball and dribbled well through tight spaces in advanced areas. Had a bullet header that was a certain goal clawed away at full stretch by Unai Simon after 57 minutes.
Frenkie de Jong (CM) - 6/10 - Not the most extravagant or important display from the Dutchman in an otherwise impressive season. Rather quiet compared to his midfield teammates, but did break up play nicely upon occasion and racked up a 93% pass accuracy.
Pedri (CM) - 6/10 - The 18-year-old was keen to run on beyond midfield and join the attack as the extra man, to mixed success. A few wayward passes but a positive outlet and drew plenty of fouls when on the ball. One to watch.
Ousmane Dembele (RW) - 8/10 - A quiet first half saw Dembele squander some solid chances on the counter, but the Frenchman looked much better in the second half when given licence to swap wings. Fantastic footwork to stand up defenders and create chances for teammates.
Lionel Messi (ST) - 8/10 - Had a great chance to score after just five minutes, but couldn't win a battle of wits when one on one with the goalkeeper. Kept focused, though, and always looked like scoring that free kick after 20 minutes as soon as he stood over it. Priceless.
Antoine Griezmann (LW) - 9/10 - Griezmann looked sharp and linked up nicely with Messi throughout the first half with some one-touch football. Continued to pick up dangerous positions after the break and was rewarded by finishing off an excellent piece of play with a goal. Incredible movement across Barcelona's front line and in fine form.
Sergi Roberto - 6/10
Clement Lenglet - N/A
Martin Braithwaite - N/A