Barcelona moved six points clear at the top of La Liga thanks to first half goals from Busquets and a Messi penalty. An attacking line up was chosen by Pep Guardiola as he looked to get his team back to winning ways.
Barca dominated possession in the early stages against a Bilbao side, who having qualified for the final of the Copa Del Rey for the first time in 25 years, spent the previous two days celebrating and turned up at Camp Nou rather worse for wear. The 2-0 scoreline flattered Bilbao as both Henry and Eto’o could have scored three or four each such was Barca’s dominance. Bilbao did have a chance to take a shock lead on 15 minutes when Yeste wasted an excellent chance with only Valdes to beat. It was to prove a costly miss as a minute later Barca took a deserved lead when Sergio Busquets rose majestically to head in a Xavi free-kick.
Barca now took control of the game enjoying the extra space in midfield and when Iniesta was brought down in the box by Gurpegui on 31 minutes Messi coolly sent Iraizoz the wrong way to give Barca a two goal lead. The mood got even better in Camp Nou as news filtered through that a Diego Forlan goal had given Atletico Madrid the lead at the Bernabeu. On 41 minutes Messi came close to scoring a goal which would have bettered his famous goal against Getafe, as he turned on the halfway line and jinked his way to the very edge of the six yard box, before a last-ditch challenge stopped him from creating something truly special.
If Barca were good in the first half they were truly awesome in the second, and in an astonishing 20 minutes of attacking play, Eto’o on four occasions, Iniesta, Henry and Pique could have made it 3-0, but two posts, a goal line clearance by Iraola and some great keeping from Iraizoz somehow kept Barca out.
The only negative for Guardiola was the 89th minute injury to captain Carles Puyol as he fell and twisted his ankle, and tests revealed a 2nd degree injury in ligaments in his left ankle. He is expected to be sidelined for three weeks.
Attention now turns to the Champions League return leg against Olympique Lyon, which kicks off on Wednesday night at 20:45
Full Time: Barcelona 2 (Busquets, 16, Messi, 31 pen)
Yellow Cards: Martinez 21, Orbaiz 47, Eto’o 50, Iniesta 58, Amorebieta 59, Busquets 69, Torquero 85
Barcelona: Victor Valdes, Carles Puyol (Mata Victor Sanchez, 90), Rafael Marquez, Gerard Pique, Silvio Sylvinho, Sergi Busquets, Xavier Hernandez Xavi, Andres Iniesta (Eidur Gudjohnsen, 83), Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto’o, Thierry Henry
Athletic Bilbao: Gorka Iraizoz, Andoni Iraola, Lertxundi Koikili, Carlos Gurpegi, Fernando Mardaras Amorebieta, Pablo Lesaca Orbaiz (Inaki Munoz, 76), Aguinaga Javi Martínez (Gaizka Pinedo Toquero, 46), Markel Laskurain Susaeta, Igor Gabilondo, Francisco Yeste, Fernando Torres Llorente (Joseba Elorriaga Garmendia, 61)
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