Lionel Messi's two-match ban is to be appealed by Barcelona, the club confirmed.

Messi was dismissed in the 121st minute of Sunday's Supercopa de Espana defeat to Athletic Bilbao as he took a swing at Asier Villalibre in an off-the-ball incident that was spotted by the VAR.

It was the first time he had been sent off for the club and only the third red in his entire 17-year career for Barca and Argentina.

Barca lost the match 3-2 in Seville and a ruling by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) competition committee on Tuesday deemed Messi's offence serious enough to warrant a two-match suspension.

That will rule him out of the Copa del Rey match against Cornella on Thursday and Sunday's LaLiga trip to Elche, before returning for another tussle with Villalibre and Athletic on January 31.

But Barca seemingly deemed the punishment too sever and announced plans to appeal soon after the RFEF's initial decision.

Barca's statement read: "Barcelona is to appeal the suspension issued to Leo Messi. The competition committee announced on Tuesday that the Argentinian's red card in the final minutes of the Supercopa de Espana final against Athletic Club shall incur a two-match ban."

Barcelona captain Lionel Messi has been banned for two domestic matches following his red card in the Supercopa de Espana final defeat to Athletic Bilbao.

Messi was dismissed in the 119th minute of Sunday's game as he took a swing at Asier Villalibre in an off-the-ball incident that was spotted by the VAR, and referee Jesus Gil Manzano subsequently showed him the red.

It was the first time he has been sent off for the club and only the third red card in his entire 17-year career for Barca and Argentina.

Reports in Spain had suggested an extended ban could be imposed on Messi, and a statement by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) confirmed on Tuesday that he will be suspended for Barca's next two games.

Therefore, he will miss the Copa del Rey game against Cornella and the league trip to Elche – he will return in time for another tussle with Villalibre and Athletic on January 31.

 

Ronald Koeman empathised with Lionel Messi's frustration after the superstar captain was sent off in Barcelona's Supercopa de Espana final loss against Athletic Bilbao.

Messi saw red for the first time in his illustrious club career as embattled LaLiga giants Barca were upstaged 3-2 by Athletic after extra time in Seville on Sunday.

After Athletic star Inaki Williams struck in the third minute of extra time, Messi swung at Asier Villalibre in an off-the-ball incident that was spotted by VAR and referee Jesus Gil Manzano brandished a red card.

Messi – who has been tipped to leave Camp Nou amid links with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain – is facing a lengthy suspension, but Barca head coach Koeman defended the 33-year-old.

"I can understand what Messi did," Koeman said afterwards.

"I don't know how many times they fouled him, and it's normal to react when they keep trying to foul you as a player who is looking to dribble with the ball, but I need to see it again properly."

Messi, who was fouled eight times against Athletic, recovered from a minor injury to return to Barcelona's line-up in his 753rd appearance for the Catalan club.

"Leo, after so many years in the elite of football, knows perfectly if he is in condition or not," Koeman said.

"We spoke before, he said he was in condition to play the game, he has given his maximum and nothing else."

Antoine Griezmann scored twice for Barca, including the 40th-minute opener, but his goals were cancelled out on both occasions at Estadio de La Cartuja.

Athletic's Oscar de Marcos equalised in the 42nd minute before substitute team-mate Villalibre forced extra time at the death, after Griezmann had restored Barca's lead with 13 minutes remaining.

Williams stepped up with a sublime goal as Barca – third in LaLiga and seven points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid – missed out on their first title under Koeman, who replaced Quique Setien ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

"We are sad, disappointed by the result," Koeman added. "We played the final to win and not to lose that, yes. But there is no time to get off. We'll be playing soon, there's a cup and a league, there's no time for regrets.

"We have done positive things, we have improved. We have failed in the goals received. We have to be more forceful in defence. We must defend better in the area and not let the opponents think, they cannot control, turn and shoot easily. We can improve.

"My work ... I give the maximum I can. My work is not very good if we had won, nor very bad for losing. We are on the way, there are positive things, although losing today is very hard."

Inaki Williams was proud of his match-winning strike against Barcelona in the Supercopa de Espana final, labelling it the best goal of his career.

Williams was the hero for Athletic, who upstaged Barca 3-2 after extra time thanks to his 93rd-minute goal in Seville on Sunday.

Barca star Antoine Griezmann had opened the scoring in the 40th minute, but Williams teed up Oscar de Marcos for the equaliser two minutes later at Estadio de La Cartuja.

Griezmann struck again with 13 minutes remaining before Athletic substitute Asier Villalibre forced extra time at the death, and Williams completed the shock result in the 93rd minute as Barca captain Lionel Messi saw red.

It secured a third Supercopa crown for Athletic – who shocked Real Madrid in the semi-final – and their first since routing Barca 5-1 across two legs in 2015, and Williams basked in his decisive goal after curling a shot away from Marc-Andre ter Stegen and into the top-right corner.

"For what it means, it's the best [goal of my career]," Williams told Movistar after becoming the only player this season to score and assist in a game against Barca across all competitions.

"We played good football, [a symptom of what] the coach wants from us.

"We fought, with passion, that's what Athletic is. I think we're fair winners. It's everyone's doing, including the previous technical team.

"We can dream of achieving big things."

Williams added: "No words needed. We all know how hard is to compete versus Barcelona because of their potential and the signing market they have whilst we have a limitation on it.

"In the previous days I have kept reading this Bible quote: David can beat Goliath. Today it was just like that. When you play with heart and faith, impossible is nothing. Today we worked and fought like animals and our effort was rewarded. Sometimes you don't get a reward but thank God it was all good today and we fully deserve this Supercopa."

Marcelino also lifted the trophy, having replaced Gaizka Garitano as Athletic head coach earlier this month.

Per Opta, Marcelino is the first head coach in history to win two one-legged finals in a row against Barcelona in all competitions, triumphing with two different teams after Valencia's 2019 Copa del Rey success.

"I've been in Bilbao for only a short time, but the truth is that it's been productive," Marcelino said via Marca.

"The credit goes to the players who, with the work they put in last year, deserve to be here. And they won two games to be champions against Real Madrid and Barcelona.

"I'd also like to remember Aritz Aduriz, Mikel San Jose and Benat Etxebarria, players here last season, as well as the coaching staff, of course.

"We came with all the humility in the world to work – taking advantage of what was done before while trying to install concepts that we want to add.

"[The players] are like sponges, and it's incredible how they fight and work. [Us as a coaching staff] are very proud and enjoy working with them because they make it so easy for us."

Barcelona star Antoine Griezmann said the LaLiga giants are "screwed, angry, upset" after being upstaged by Athletic Bilbao in the Supercopa de Espana final.

Lionel Messi was sent off for the first time in his Barca career as the Catalan club lost 3-2 to Athletic following extra time in Seville on Sunday.

Griezmann scored twice, including the 40th-minute opener, but his goals were cancelled out on both occasions at Estadio de La Cartuja.

Athletic's Oscar de Marcos equalised in the 42nd minute before substitute team-mate Asier Villalibre forced extra time at the death, after Griezmann had restored Barca's lead with 13 minutes remaining.

Inaki Williams then scored a sublime goal in the third minute of extra time to secure Athletic's third Supercopa crown and first since 2015, with Messi's red card for lashing out at Villalibre adding to Barca's woes in the dying moments.

"How do you think we are?" Griezmann replied when asked how Barca felt post-game.

"We're screwed, angry, upset. When you lose a final, these are all the bad feelings you have.

"Athletic pressed very well. They gave everything until the last minute, and then what happened, happened. We have made mistakes in our strategy and we'll have to work on it during the week.

"We didn't defend well, we didn't communicate. When the ball comes out someone needs to shout."

France star Griezmann has scored five goals in his past four finals in all competitions for club and country.

He has also been directly involved in seven goals in his past four appearances for Barca across all competitions, after failing to score or assist a goal in any of his previous seven matches.

In LaLiga, Ronald Koeman's Barca are third and seven points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid – who have two games in hand.

Lionel Messi's Barcelona career has had just about everything - but until Sunday night the Argentine superstar had not been red-carded for the Camp Nou giants.

That changed when Messi was sent off for the first time in his club career after dramatically losing his cool late on in the 3-2 Supercopa de Espana final loss to Athletic Bilbao.

Messi, who recovered from a minor injury to take a place in Barca's starting line-up, saw red in what was his 753rd appearance for the club.

With 119 minutes of the match played, Messi swung at Asier Villalibre in an off-the-ball incident that was spotted by VAR and referee Jesus Gil Manzano reached into his back pocket.

The 33-year-old is now facing a possible extended ban that will carry over into LaLiga, with the disciplinary committee of the Spanish FA (RFEF) to have the final say on the length of the suspension.

It was the third red card of Messi's 17-year career overall, having also previously been dismissed twice for Argentina.

He was given his marching orders following a clash with Gary Medel in a Copa America third-place play-off in July 2019 and was famously sent off on his international debut against Hungary in 2005.

Messi failed to find the target from any of his three attempts in the loss to Athletic, who twice came from behind to win the competition for just a third time.

Antoine Griezmann scored twice, either side of Oscar De Marcos' equaliser, but Villalibre levelled up in the 90th minute and Inaki Williams scored a sublime winner three minutes into extra time.

Reflecting on the defeat, Barca boss Ronald Koeman - denied a first piece of silverware since succeeding Quique Setien at Camp Nou in August - said: "It was a difficult game. 

"We were really close to the victory. It is always difficult to concede just before half-time, and then again at the end. It's really difficult to handle."

Lionel Messi was sent off for the first time in his Barcelona career after Inaki Williams scored a sublime goal that gave Athletic Bilbao a shock 3-2 win in the Supercopa de Espana final.

The Catalan giants were on the brink of a record-extending 13th triumph in the competition after Antoine Griezmann scored twice, either side of Oscar De Marcos' equaliser, to put Barcelona 2-1 up late on in normal time.

But Athletic, who knocked out holders Real Madrid in the semi-finals, equalised through substitute Asier Villalibre in the 90th minute and Williams scored early on in the additional period to turn the tie on its head.

Captain Messi was then dramatically sent off in the dying moments of extra time when VAR spotted an off-the-ball incident involving Villalibre, as the Argentinian violently knocked the Athletic player to the ground.

Barca were seeking their silverware under Ronald Koeman but it proved to be a night they would want to quickly forget.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen palmed Ander Capa's long-range drive over the crossbar from the game's first short on target as Athletic threatened after 26 minutes.

Barca slowly found their rhythm and took the lead through their first meaningful attack, Griezmann drilling home after Messi's shot from a Jordi Alba cutback was blocked.

It took Athletic just a minute and 33 seconds to respond through De Marcos, who ghosted in to guide Williams' impressive pass over the top away from Ter Stegen.

And Garcia thought he had given his side the lead just before the hour mark, only for his header to be rightly ruled out for offside following a VAR check.

Athletic lost 3-2 to Barca when the sides met in LaLiga less than two weeks ago but they continued to look the more threatening as Williams blazed wide from inside the box.

Koeman's men appeared to have won the game in normal time when Alba again got in behind and teed up Griezmann to steer home, yet there was to be a late twist.

Captain Iker Muniain sent a free-kick into the box and Villalibre, having kept himself just onside, fired past Ter Stegen to salvage an additional 30 minutes.

Williams' moment of magic arrived three minutes into extra time as he cut inside Oscar Mingueza and curled the ball away from Ter Stegen into the top-right corner.

Barca had time to take the game to penalties but Griezmann volleyed wide at the back post from the best of their remaining chances.


What does it mean? Opportunity missed for Koeman

This competition may be fourth on the list of Barcelona's priorities this season, but Koeman targeted victory in this four-team tournament to strengthen his claims that the club are on the right track under his stewardship.

Having won four in a row in all competitions, including a penalty shoot-out victory over Real Sociedad in the semi-finals, they entered this match with momentum on their side and as heavy favourites.

Athletic may be 13 points below their opponents in LaLiga but they more than held their own in this final, outshooting their opponents 12-10 over the 120 minutes and showing a little extra cutting edge when it mattered most. The Messi red card was an alarming blight on an already desperately disappointing night for Barcelona.

Antoine at it again

Griezmann scored from two of his five shots and has now been directly involved in seven goals in four games, having failed to score or assist in his previous seven outings.

He has also scored five goals in the last four finals he has played for club and country - two for Atletico Madrid, one for France and now two for Barcelona.

Messi's moment of madness

In what was his 753rd appearance for Barcelona in all competitions, Messi was shown his first red card for an off-the-ball swing at Villalibre.

Even before that incident it was a frustrating day for the Argentina international on his return from a short lay-off as he failed to find the target from any of his three attempts.

What's next?

Barcelona switch focus to the Copa del Rey on Thursday with a trip to Cornella, though that last-32 tie could be in doubt due to reports of a coronavirus outbreak in the opposition's camp.

Athletic are up against lower-league opposition on the same day, too, as they take on Ibiza for a place in the last 16.

Lionel Messi was sent off for the first time in his Barcelona career after Inaki Williams scored a sublime goal that gave Athletic Bilbao a shock 3-2 win in the Supercopa de Espana final.

The Catalan giants were on the brink of a record-extending 13th triumph in the competition after Antoine Griezmann scored twice, either side of Oscar De Marcos' equaliser, to put Barcelona 2-1 up late on in normal time.

But Athletic, who knocked out holders Real Madrid in the semi-finals, equalised through substitute Asier Villalibre in the 90th minute and Williams scored early on in the additional period to turn the tie on its head.

Messi was then sent off in the dying moments of extra time when VAR spotted an off-the-ball incident involving Villalibre, as the Argentinian violently knocked the Athletic player to the ground.

Lionel Messi will have the final say over whether he plays a part in Barcelona's Supercopa de Espana final showdown with Athletic Bilbao on Sunday. 

The Argentina international missed Wednesday's penalty shoot-out victory over Real Sociedad in the semi-finals due to what was described as "discomfort". 

He trained individually on Friday and then with the rest of his team-mates on Saturday, though Koeman is unsure if his star man will be available to face Athletic at Estadio La Cartuja. 

"We will see. The player himself always has the last word," Koeman said at his pre-match news conference when asked if Messi will play. 

"We will wait until Sunday morning to see how his body reacts. We are hopeful he will be available tomorrow. 

"If you have the best players in your side, you always have a better chance of winning. We are talking of the number one player in the world. 

"With Leo the team is stronger in terms of creativity and effectiveness, which we otherwise sometimes lack. We have a system in mind but it depends if Leo is involved or not."

Sunday's clash with Athletic presents Koeman with an opportunity to win his first piece of silverware as Barca boss. 

The Catalan giants, who have won the competition a record 13 times, have had four days to recover for the game and Koeman feels his players are in good shape. 

"The team is fine and happy to play the final," he said. "We are very tired, but we have had enough time to fully recover.  

"A difficult game awaits us, against a rival who works hard and is very competitive. We have to try to play our game. 

"It is always important to win things to know that we are on the road. We know that it is not the most important competition, but it is always something for any of us to celebrate. 

"Winning shows us that we are on the right track. It will not be so decisive, but good for the confidence and to show that we have improved things.  

"It is another game to show that we are a strong team and that we fight every game. We will find an opponent who will have all their players ready." 

Athletic are 13 points below Barca in LaLiga but Koeman is wary of opponents who knocked out Real Madrid to reach the final. 

"It is a demonstration that tomorrow everything is possible," he said.  

"If Athletic are as competitive as they were [against Madrid] then it can make for a complicated game. They were effective against Madrid and deserved to go through." 

While Barca are gearing up for a cup final on the field, matters off it also remain a hot topic of discussion. 

It was announced on Friday that the presidential elections, originally scheduled to take place this month, have been pushed back until March. 

That delay means Barca are no longer in the market for new players, ruling out a rumoured move for Manchester City defender Eric Garcia, but Koeman fully understands the situation. 

The Dutchman said: "I have to tell you that I'm fine, happy. I know perfectly well the financial limitations of the club. If that is not possible, we will go ahead with what we have."

Zinedine Zidane said missing out on a Supercopa de Espana final showdown with Barcelona was not a failure for Real Madrid after they were beaten 2-1 by Athletic Bilbao.

Raul Garcia's first-half double was enough to knock the holders out and end their nine-match unbeaten run at La Rosaleda on Thursday.

Karim Benzema's 13th goal of the season gave Los Blancos hope after Marco Asensio hit the woodwork twice, but the Basque side held on to secure only a second win over the LaLiga champions in 23 matches and a first victory under new coach Marcelino.

Madrid boss Zidane felt his side fell short of the high standards he expects in the first half, but he will not be dwelling on the setback.

He said: "Our first half was difficult, we didn't get into the game well, they scored two goals. They had two chances and two goals. When you are two goals down it is always difficult.

"Then we had a better second half, we created chances, we had several, scored a goal, but could not score a second."

He added: "It is not a failure. Failure is not trying, not giving everything on the field. Life is like that, you can't always win. What we always try to do is win, but you can't always."

Madrid had not lost since December 1 and Zidane expects his side, who have a weekend off before facing Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey next Wednesday, to respond after missing out on another trophy.

The former France playmaker said: "We had a good run and now it's two draws and one loss [in their past four games]. We have to keep working to change the dynamics quickly.

"The outside will be the same as always, what we can do is keep working and move this forward as a team."

Eden Hazard again failed to show what he is capable of, hitting the target only once from three attempts and making just one key pass.

The Belgium forward has scored just two goals and not provided an assist in an injury-hit campaign, but Zidane remains confident he will come good.

Zidane said: "He must regain confidence, play a good game, score a goal, something different. We know the player he is and we have to be patient, but he is working. We are with him, we have to be patient."

Athletic and Barca do battle for the trophy at Estadio de La Cartuja on Sunday.

Raul Garcia scored twice as Athletic Bilbao secured a rare 2-1 win over holders Real Madrid to set up a Supercopa de Espana final against Barcelona.

Athletic had won only one of their previous 22 matches against the LaLiga champions but beat them for the first time since March 2015 at La Rosaleda on Thursday to hand Marcelino his first victory.

Raul Garcia was set up by Dani Garcia for the opening goal and struck again from the penalty spot to stun Madrid in the first half.

Karim Benzema reduced the deficit after Marco Asensio struck the woodwork twice, but Bilbao held on to end Madrid's nine-match unbeaten run and ensure they will do battle with Barca for the trophy at Estadio de La Cartuja on Sunday.

Athletic did not allow Madrid to settle and they were in front in the 18th minute when Dani Garcia picked up a sloppy pass from Lucas Vazquez and threaded an incisive ball through for the unmarked Raul Garcia to slot beyond Thibaut Courtois.

Having flashed a venomous shot wide as the Basque side continued to press Los Blancos high up the pitch, the experienced midfielder was on target again seven minutes from time.

Another lapse from Vazquez proved to be costly, the defender bundling over Inigo Martinez and Raul Garcia sending Courtois the wrong way with an expertly taken spot-kick seven minutes before the break.

Nacho Fernandez replaced Raphael Varane at half-time and Iker Muniain ought to have put Athletic three goals to the good when he nodded Oscar De Marcos' cross wide of the near post from close range.

Asensio twice came close to halving the deficit in quick succession, rattling the near post from close range before striking the crossbar with a rasping long-range drive.

Benzema pulled one back when he was ruled onside following a VAR check after the flagged was initially raised with 17 minutes remaining.

France striker Benzema had the ball in the back of the net again but this time he was ruled to be offside after Courtois denied Asier Villalibre and Sergio Ramos headed just wide as Athletic held on in a tense finale.

Atletico Madrid's home game against Athletic Bilbao has been postponed due to Storm Filomena blanketing the Spanish capital in snow.

The match was due to take place on Saturday afternoon but a new date must now be found.

Atletico, who led the LaLiga table heading into the weekend, said their opponents had been unable to make the trip, and that conditions were so treacherous that anyone attempting to travel to the Wanda Metropolitano stadium would be putting themselves in danger.

In a statement, Atletico said: "The match that we were supposed to play today against Athletic Club at the Wanda Metropolitano has been postponed due to the snowstorm affecting much of the peninsula.

"The inclement weather prevented the Basque team from travelling to Madrid due to the temporary closure of the Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suarez Airport and, in addition, the travel of our team, referees and club staff to the stadium was not guaranteed to be safe due to the poor condition of the roads in the community of Madrid.

"Faced with this situation, LaLiga has requested this morning the postponement of the match to the professional competition committee, given the exceptional circumstances caused by inclement weather, and the latter has ratified the decision not to play the game today as planned. The date of the match will be announced in the next few days."

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman believes Lionel Messi is slowly getting back to his best after a brace against Athletic Bilbao.

Messi scored twice, to go with Pedri's goal, at San Mames on Wednesday as Barca recorded a 3-2 victory.

The star has been involved in 10 goals in his past 10 games in all competitions, netting eight and assisting two.

And Koeman feels Messi, who has netted 12 times in 20 appearances this season, is improving.

"Since the first day that I arrived at the club I think Lionel Messi has given everything," he told a news conference.

"I haven’t been surprised by his quality because he's obviously been showing how good he is for years. It's possibly true that he's been less effective than normal which is why there could have been doubts but he's doing a lot better now, he feels comfortable at the moment and he feels up for the challenge.

"That's how I feel. But I think Messi is the one who can answer that best."

Pedri cancelled out Inaki Williams' opener before Messi's double, and Barca moved into third in LaLiga despite Iker Muniain's late goal.

Koeman also praised Ousmane Dembele, who along with Pedri and Antoine Griezmann had a game-high three key passes.

"I think everything starts with the player himself. If the player feels comfortable and feels physically fit he can play well," he said.

"I don't think there's ever been any question about his quality, at least in my opinion, but there have been doubts about his ability to stay fit. At the moment he seems fully fit and I have to think about the programme of games ahead and when we can give him a rest because he hasn't played regularly for quite some time.

"He has to learn how to manage his game time as well. But in terms of the football he can play we know what he can give to the team. He's very good going forward, he attacks with the ball and those are good qualities for us."

Barca, who are seven points behind league leaders Atletico Madrid and have played two more games, visit Granada on Saturday.

Ronald Koeman believes Barcelona demonstrated they are on the right track by overcoming an early setback to win 3-2 at Athletic Bilbao.

Inaki Williams raced clear to put the hosts, who had Marcelino in charge for the first time, in front inside three minutes of Wednesday's LaLiga clash.

However, Barca responded impressively, goals from Pedri and Lionel Messi putting them in front by the break before the latter increased their lead just after the hour mark.

Koeman had to endure a nervy finish after Iker Muniain's 90th-minute finish, but promised his squad will "fight until the last match" in LaLiga after moving up to third in the table.

"The final result is a bit short because we have been superior in many phases," Koeman said, having now recorded three away wins on the spin in LaLiga for the first time in his reign.

"They made it 1-0 and we did not have the defensive coordination, but then we controlled [the game].

"I am happy with the result and with how we have achieved it. We have deserved it. Winning because of our game and our opportunities.

"The teamwork has been phenomenal. We will fight until the last match. There is distance [to go], but we are on the right track." 

Messi will understandably dominate the agenda having scored twice, but Koeman was also quick to praise the performance of Pedri, who completed over 90 per cent of his attempted passes.

The teenage midfielder scored the equaliser, heading in Frenkie de Jong's cutback cross with goalkeeper Unai Simon out of position, while it was his backheeled pass that set up Messi to make it 2-1.

"Pedri is showing despite his youth that he is very mature," the Dutchman said in his post-match interview.

"Messi has always shown his desire but today also with goals. It is very important."

Messi's long-term future at Camp Nou may be unclear but his recent form has shown no lack of commitment to the cause; he has been involved in 10 goals in his last 10 games in all competitions.

Barca are next in action on Saturday, when they visit Granada.

Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona ruined Marcelino's first match in charge of Athletic Bilbao with a hard-fought 3-2 triumph at San Mames.

Inaki Williams made an instant impression on Athletic's new boss - appointed following the dismissal of Gaizka Garitano - by scoring inside three minutes for the home team on Wednesday.

Capitalising on a ridiculously high defensive line, the forward ran clear from inside his own half and, after cutting back inside a half-hearted challenge from Clement Lenglet, fired low past Marc-Andre ter Stegen to break the deadlock. 

However, with Messi leading the way, Barca recovered from the setback to turn the game around by the interval, albeit with some help from the hosts.

Unai Simon was tempted out to deal with Messi's seemingly over-hit cross for the equaliser, the alert Frenkie de Jong stretching out to volley the ball back into the middle for Pedri to nod into an unguarded net. 

The Athletic goalkeeper was caught again when his side conceded seven minutes before the break, Pedri the provider as his clever back-heeled assist set up the supporting Messi to pass the ball in, Simon - who had initially rushed out expecting the teenager to shoot - stranded out of position.

Athletic briefly threatened a recovery of their own early in the second half, yet it was always their opponents who carried the far greater threat in attack.

Having seen a goal ruled out for offside and a long-range shot denied by a post, Messi finally scored again when sweeping Antoine Griezmann's square pass home via the underside of the crossbar.

There was late drama when a turnover in possession allowed Alex Berenguer to tee up Iker Muniain for a first-time finish that cut the gap in the 90th minute, but Barca held firm to claim all three points.

Page 1 of 6
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.