Lionel Messi scored once and played his part in four more goals as Barcelona closed to within a point of La Liga leaders Real Madrid with a commanding performance to beat Athletic Bilbao 5-2 on Sunday.
The four-time FIFA World Player of the Year opened the scoring with a deflected free-kick and then teed up Luis Suarez to double the visitors’ advantage. Mikel Rico briefly gave Athletic hope after half-time, but Messi’s goalbound header was then turned into his own net by Oscar de Marcos before Neymar rolled home Barcelona’s fourth from another Messi pass.
Aritz Aduriz made it four goals in a crazy six minute spell by pulling another goal back for Athletic, but the hosts ended the game with 10 men after Xabier Etxeita was shown a straight red card for a horrible challenge on Suarez before Pedro Rodriguez added a fifth.
Barcelona have now won their last nine games, scoring 34 goals in the process, and will be further boosted by Real’s ragged showing in their 4-0 destruction at the hands of Atletico Madrid on Saturday.