Athletic Club - FC Barcelona: Epic point in the rain (2-2)
Cesc Fàbregas and Leo Messi, the latter in injury time, twice scored to bring Barça back from behind. The real protagonist was the pouring rain, which made the field as good as unplayable for Barça and Athletic Club of Bilbao.
Barcelona (FCB).- The game between two of Spanish League's historic outfits, FC Barcelona and Athletic Club of Bilbao, was no disappointment and ended 2-2, but could have gone absolutely either way. In pure footballing terms, Barça deserved to win and comfortably, but with just ten minutes left to play found themselves a goal down, and it was only thanks to a Messi goal in injury time that Barça didn't come home empty handed. Earlier on, Ander had put the Athletic side ahead before Cesc Fàbregas headed home an equaliser shortly before the break. But the rain had been so intense that especially in the second half it was almost impossible for either side to produce any kind of flowing football whatsoever.
The draw means that although Barcelona stay second in the table, they are now three points adrift of Real Madrid. Next up is Wednesday night's cup tie against Hospitalet.
Ander puts Bilbao ahead
It only took a few minutes for it to become clear that Barça manager, Pep Guardiola, had made the right decision in resting some of his more creative midfielders. This was going to a highly physical encounter on a pitch that was covered in puddles, with the grass totally invisible in some areas. The conditions were even dangerous, and it was a Mascherano slip that gave Susaeta the chance to produce a counter attack that was finished in fine fashion by Ander. 1-0.
Cesc uses his head
It didn't take long for the Catalans to conjure up a response, and Alves almost equalised following a terrific set play started near to the corner flag. But in the very next move, Cesc headed home a sublime assist from Abidal. It was no less than Barcelona deserved after a veritable onslaught on the goal defended by Gorka, with Messi as decisive as ever with some typically dazzling diagonal runs.
Against the grass
The rain didn't stop all game, and although the drainage had held up reasonably well for the first 45 minutes, in the second half the conditions were verging on the farcical. It was particularly bad in the half defended by the Basques, and when a Javi Martínez pass to his keeper stopped dead in the water, almost allowing Iniesta to score one of the simplest goals of his life, it was a clear warning to both sides that any balls along the ground would be dicing with danger.
Bilbao score and Barça react
The second goal for Bilbao was a particularly unfortunate incident. In avoiding a throw-in, Mascherano ended up conceding a corner, and it was from that that there was a horrendous mix-up in the Barça area, not helped by the sodden turf, which ended with Piqué kicking the ball into his own net. There were just ten minutes left for FC Barcelona to make amends, and following a series of clear-cut but squandered chances, in injury time a dreadful misunderstanding between Gorka and his defence caused the ball to land straight at Messi's feet. The Argentinian did what he had to do, and Barcelona had managed to save a point from this epic in the rain.