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Deportivo La Coruña
21 April 2014
• Camp Nou, Barcelona
Referee: Juan Martínez Munuera
• Attendance: 57090
L. Messi 74'
That's it from me, it's been a pleasure.
The wheels were threatening to fall off for a long time, but a come from behind win for the hosts sees them cling onto their title hopes. A huge disappointment for Bilbao, who played well enough for at least a point. A thrilling game, and I'm sorry it's ended.
90' + 4'
90' + 3'
OFFSIDE! Messi pulls off a barnstorming run to take the ball from his own half to the edge of the area, and squeezes the ball in for Adriano. The Brazilian is flagged though, well before he hooks the ball into the back of the net.
90' + 2'
BLOCKED BY MASCHERANO! What an incredible saving move from the Argentine, as Rico was teed up for the tap in from 10 yards, only to see his goalbound finish thwarted by the bravery of the defender!
90' + 1'
TELLO! He could have ended it all there as he broke free of the defence, but his attempted poke past the keeper is weak and easily booted clear by the covering defender. He had Messi in support too...
Time fast running out for Bilbao. Both sides are exchanging harmless spells of possession. This suits the hosts, but not the visitors. Can they summon the energy of earlier in the game for one final flourish?
More changes for both sides. Toquero jogs on for Susaeta, and Tello replaces Sanchez.
MASCHERANO! Well a collector's item there, as the Argentine goes storming forward with the ball. He's got Pedro to his left and Messi to his right in support, but eschews the both of them to lash an effort on goal that whistles just over the top! Close, but maybe the wrong decision.
OOOOH NO. Messi for one second dusted off the cobwebs and nipped the ball ahead of the fullback, bearing down on goal at full stretch. He has Laporte between him and the goal and Fabregas in support, but he's tackled by Laporte too easily! A sad sight.
It's iturraspe who departs the field of play for Benat, and another throw of the dice from Valverde.
Bilbao have started to boss possession in the late stages, but they're not really doing enough to threaten Pinto in the Barca goal. Meanwhile, they're plotting another change...
Herrera attacks a loose ball at the top of the Barca box, but Adriano is on hand to make the block. Moments later, Alves just puts a little too much mustard on a low diagonal to Messi, allowing Iraizoz the chance to streak off his line and claim the ball.
Yellow Card Pedro
The title race is still on for Barca, as Bilbao frantically chase an equaliser. Still, it's Barca who look the more composed side heading into the final lap. What a change from the beginning of the second half! Credit must go to the hosts for doing what they needed to do.
CHANCES! Iraizoz is tackled well outside his box by Sanchez, but is bailed out by the referee's whistle. Moments later, Susaeta drives into the Barca box, but cannot angle his effort away from Pinto. This game can still go any way!
Goal Lionel Messi
BARCA ARE LEVEL! From the set piece, Messi bends a low free kick into the bottom corner as Barca complete the most incredible of turnarounds! How must Bilbao be feeling?
IT'S IN! MESSI HAS DONE IT!
Yellow Card Óscar De Marcos
Assist Alexis Sánchez
Yellow Card Ander Herrera
Anxious no more? Pedro comes up with the goods inside the 18 yard area as he turns home an attempted strike from Sanchez. 1-1 and just under 20 minutes remaining, can Barca do it?
BARCA ARE LEVEL!
GREAT BLOCK BY ITURRASPE! The midfielder has been excellent all night, and with Adriano primed to smack a volley into the top corner, he throws his body in the way to stop the ball from reaching the target!
No signs of a sub in response from Martino, as Adriano is denied at the last by Iraizoz, who strode off his line to meet the Brazilian at the near post. On the next play, the keeper makes a similar stop at the feet of Alves, but comes off worse for wear - he made contact with the boot of the right back and is in some pain.
First sub of the game, Moran departing for Rico. A hard working shift in the middle for the Bilbao man.
BILBAO HIT THE BAR! Athletic spark forward on the counter but to their credit, Barca do well to track back and stop the attempt. However Bilbao are back down the pitch soon, but a ranged effort from Aduriz just about licks the paint on the surface of the crossbar!
WHAT IS GOING ON? Something is definitely off at Camp Nou. Iniesta plays Messi behind the last defender, and it's set up for a finish that the Argentine has buried at least 100 times before. But bizarrely, he rolls a weak attempt well wide of the far post! Should have been level, but not even a corner to show for that!
IRAIZOZ COMES UP TRUMPS ONCE MORE! Pedro's run towards the far post is found by Xavi, and the forward has time and space to pick his spot. However, he digs his shot within saving distance of the inspired Bilbao keeper, who uses his happy feet to thwart Barca for the umpteenth time.
Barca are affording the visitors plenty of chances to attack them on the back foot thanks to their willingness to cough up the ball in their own half. It's not working at the other end either, as the Catalans have barely had a sniff of a goalscoring opportunity since the game's resumption.
Susaeta has a goal correctly disallowed for offside after lashing home from close range. The nerves are jangling like change in a panhandler's cup all around Camp Nou. A great chance for Bilbao to push for a second and a famous scalp.
A few minutes over half an hour remaining here and make no mistake - this period will define Barca's season and quite possibly Tata's job. Lose this game and they are staring down the barrel of a SEVEN point deficit to Atletico at the top of La Liga. Even a draw won't do much good, it's win or bust!
The white handkerchiefs are being waved by large sections of the home support. If this result holds it may be curtains for Barca's trophy hopes this season - and is it curtains for Tata Martino in the Camp Nou hotseat?
Goal Aritz Aduriz Zubeldia
Well then! Cat amongst the pigeons! Aduriz shows great dexterity on the ball at the top of the box, but he's allowed far, far too much time on the ball in such a dangerous area. He thus has the time to pick out the bottom corner from that very position!
OVER THE BAR! Sanchez is felled near the edge of the box after an electrifying run, and it's Messi who takes up the mantle of striking the ensuing set piece. However, though he gets good contact on the ball, it doesn't dip in time and goes over the bar.
No changes coming in yet for either side from the half time break. It's been working, at least offensively, for both sides, so why would the coaches risk wrecking that formula. The only thing holding the sides back is poor finishing - especially in the case of Barca.
Here we go again!
It's just flown by, this opening period. Chances aplenty at both ends, with the woodworks getting their fair share of action as well. All signs point to multiple goals in this one, but at the moment, something more is still needed to tip the balance. Stay tuned.
That's it for the first half.
Ernesto Valverde has pulled off four draws in his last five visits to this stadium, going back to his days as coach of Valencia and Villarreal. And on the basis of play so far, his team can lay a justified claim to a similar result again.
IRAIZOZ AGAIN! The move set up Messi perfectly to smash the ball at goal from a straight-on angle, but the Bilbao keeper uses his feet excellently to thwart the effort, and then dives to cover his near post as Pedro looked to lap up the rebound!
SANCHEZ! Another chance for Barca and another save from Iraizoz. After some buildup inside the Bilbao box, the ball falls for Sanchez, 15 yards out, who lashes it towards goal, but it's right at Iraizoz who still uses great reflexes to make the save!
Messi spreads the ball wide to Alexis on the right hand side. The Chilean makes the right decision to supply the Argentine with the return pass, but his execution did not match his vision. The pass was too heavy and too far from the feet of Messi, leading to a Laporte interception.
For a second there, Pinto seemed set to commit another howler when coming for a cross, but after spilling the ball for a second, he snatches it up before anyone in red and white can pounce.
There's been chances aplenty and near misses on both ends of the pitch. It's been a feast to watch, with the only surprise being the 0-0 still adorning the scoreboard. Both Bilbao and Barca have made strong cases for getting off the mark.
BARCA HIT IRON NOW! Oh my this game has taken on another gear! Pedro goes storming down the left hand side, and with Alexis making an unchecked run towards the far post, the Spaniard squares the ball excellently for him. It's set up for the tap in, but the Chilean side-foots the ball onto the crossbar! Take a deep breath now...
BARCA SURVIVE A MAJOR SCARE! An absolutely magnificent effort from Aduriz with an overhead kick sees the ball thwack off the crossbar, and the visitors narrowly miss from the rebound! Pinto was ROOTED to the spot by that piece of incredible ingenuity and technique from Aduriz! Deserved a goal and a half!
Speaking of Sanchez, can he help Barca get over the line in the run in? Neymar's been basically ruled out for the remainder of the season after that injury he picked up in the Copa del Rey final. Sanchez, so prolific earlier in the season, has a chance to play a match winning role once again.
Sanchez is hot-stepping it towards goal but is shut down brilliantly by Laporte. The Chilean is difficult to stop in full flight, but to win the ball that cleanly without a hint of a foul was superb defending.
THERE WAS THE CHANCE! Another huge sniff at a goal for the Catalans, as a corner comes in from the left and is nodded into the six yard area by Sanchez. Bartra only has to stick his boot out to turn it in, but he lets it run off his chest, which makes it too easy for Iraizoz.
Messi plays in Adriano on the left corner of the box, and the Brazilian dances with the ball for a few seconds before cracking a low right-footer at goal, which Balenziaga smashes away from danger right in front of Iraizoz. The keeper would have probably saved it, to be fair, but no chances taken!
Bartra becomes the first Barca player in the book for tugging back Herrera blatantly. A booking each, and evens on the scoreline as well.
Yellow Card Bartra
The Barca fans have to appreciate the urgency shown by their side. They've been exceptionally sharp in the attacking third, and what's more, there's a refreshing directness about the way that they are attacking the opposition. Tiki-taka has come in for some criticism lately, and Barca are showing that they can mix it up.
Some real pressure being exerted by the home side, and they have a goal disallowed! Iniesta hooks an inswinging cross over the top for Messi, and the Argentine turns home, but the assistant, correctly, flags him for being just ahead of the last defender!
Those last two attacks were reminiscent of Barcelona at their brilliant best. Pressing high up the field, they won the ball in the opposition half. No time for tiki-taka, instead, direct running and a killer pass from the man on the ball released the runner for a one-on-one with the keeper.
Iraizoz has been called into action again moments later, pushing the ball away from Messi's feet just as the Argentine was setting up to bury the finish! He's been excellent in goal so far!
WEAK FINISH! Messi sparks Barca on the counter attack, squeezing in superb ball past the last two defenders, that matches the run of Pedro. The Spanish forward has the step on the pair of them, but his attempt to bend it into the far corner is smothered too easily. Dani Alves was begging for the tap in!
Some real gaps being probed here by Bilbao in the opening quarter of an hour. The defensive frailties of Barca show signs of being exposed once again. They really need their attacking players to come up with the goods tonight, to ease the pressure on those at the back.
ADURIZ! Alex Song coughs up the ball under pressure, and it allows the visitors a chance to attack from deep inside the Barca half. The Bilbao striker is released with a clever through ball on the wing-side of the defender, but his lashed effort towards the pear post is pushed away by Pinto. A save you would expect, but he had to make it still.
CLOSE CALL for Bilbao this time, as Messi is allowed to drift away from the last defender and he nearly latches on to Iniesta's pass. Had he connected with that, he would have been onside, and left with only the keeper to beat!
Yellow Card Iturraspe
First booking of the game and no surprise to see it go to Iturraspe, who brings down Pedro inside the opposition half. He'll be walking a tightrope for a long while now.
There was a real chance on the break there for Bilbao, as Munain was released goalside of the centre backs. Mascherano closes down the space, but Muniain's attempted pass to the overlapping De Marcos was poor, gifting possession right back to the Catalans.
Bilbao enjoying a calm and composed start to this game, as the move the ball around the wide Camp Nou pitch with impunity. The fans inside this stadium will demand nothing less than all three points here after some real wobbles in the last few weeks.
Barcelona have won three of their last five games agaisnt Bilbao, and nine straight against the Basque club at Camp Nou. However, in their past two meetings, Bilbao have avoided defeat - even pinching a 1-0 win at San Mames in the reverse fixture earlier in the season.
Bilbao are doing pretty well for themselves though. They hold a three point advantage over Sevilla for the fourth and final Champions League berth - as well as a game in hand. However, the Basque side will want to extend that advantage tonight with Sevilla set to visit San Mames next weekend.
Barcelona are seven points behind Atletico Madrid, who lead La Liga. The Blaugrana simply need to win their game in hand here, because after today, there will only be four matches and 12 points up for grabs. The Rojiblancos visit Camp Nou on the final day of the season, and it would be a great embarrasment for Barca to have to form the guard of honour then. A great shame for us neutrals too, to deprive us of a storybook title-deciding season finale.
The season has been falling apart fast for Barcelona. Their latest setback came midweek against Real Madrid, where a late Gareth Bale goal saw Los Blancos clinch the Copa del Rey trophy with a 2-1 victory. It's just not working on the pitch for the Catalans anymore, and even Lionel Messi seems to have lost that godlike aura that surrounded him.
Meanwhile, it's a fairly standard XI for the visiting side, with the only change of note being the inclusion of Oscar De Marcos in place of Andoni Iraola at right back.
Neymar picked up an injury midweek against Real Madrid and will not feature for the hosts. Gerard Pique also misses out, so Marc Bartra contnues in defence, while Alexis Sanchez and Pedro flank Lionel Messi up front. There is also a rare start for former Arsenal man Alex Song.
ATHLETIC BILBAO: Iraizoz; De Marcos, San Jose, Laporte, Balenziaga; Iturraspe, Moran, Herrera; Susaeta, Aduriz, Muniain.
BARCELONA: Pinto; Alves, Mascherano, Bartra, Adriano; Xavi, Song, Iniesta; Alexis, Messi, Pedro.
Hello and welcome to another round of Liga action as title chasing Barcelona host Athletic Bilbao. I'm Keeghann Sinanan, your guide for all the action.
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