Barcelona 2-0 Athletic: Alcacer & Messi Ease Barca to Victory With Scintillating First Half Display

Barcelona extended their unbeaten Primera Division home run to 31 games on Sunday afternoon as they eased past Athletic Club 2-0 inside an 83,000-strong Camp Nou. 

Strikes from Paco Alcacer and Lionel Messi placed the hosts in a comfortable position during a sensational first half display which could have feasibly seen the Catalonians command a much greater advantage.

However, following a measured second 45, which saw the tempo sucked out of the contest, Barca were again unable to force the scoreline to truly reflect their supremacy, although the champions elect extended their points buffer over Atletico Madrid to 11 points – with Diego Simeone’s side visiting Villarreal later in the afternoon. 

Ahead of the contest, Blaugrana boss Ernesto Valverde claimed his side were down to the “bare bones”; however, that did not stop the hosts asserting their dominance early on, with Alcacer making their pressure count inside eight minutes. 

A pedestrian-paced, but measured buildup eventually found its way to Jordi Alba on the left-hand side before the Spaniard slid in his low cross which the second-string frontman, in for the suspended Luis Suarez, latched onto with a simple side-foot from 12 yards to give Barca the advantage.

And Barcelona’s lead was inches away from being doubled moments later; after Alba thought he had added another assist to his account as he fed Philippe Coutinho via a volleyed knockdown, only for the Brazilian’s rocketed effort to rattle the underside of Kepa Arrizabalaga’s crossbar and eventually roll away to safety.

However, as the stroke of the half-hour came, as did Blaugrana’s deserved second; thanks to a typically scintillating strike from Messi. 

The Argentine was fed with a beautifully weighted pass from Ousmane Dembele, with the driven ball cutting out three Athletic defenders en route to the 30-year-old, before the maestro’s leathered attempt from the edge of the area flew into the bottom right-hand corner of Kepa’s goal to mark his 25th of the campaign.

After extending their advantage, Barca continued their dominance, with Coutinho’s hitting of the woodwork for the second time of the afternoon swiftly followed up by Paulinho being denied via the same obstacle. 

But, despite their overwhelming dominance, and some simply sensational football, Valverde led his side into the dressing room at the break with just a two-goal advantage. 

As the second half passed by, the hosts struggled to find their levels from the first, with Athletic seeing more of the ball in opposition territory; however, failing to test Marc-Andre ter Stegen. 

And as the full-time whistle approached, the slow tempo continued, with Barca rounding off a comfortable afternoon at a canter to secure their fifth straight win across all competitions.  

??

??

Let’