Wellington : Argentina football team captain Lionel Messi was again at the heart of Barcelona’s attack as the Catalan side thrashed Athletic Bilbao 5-2 in La Liga on Sunday to move within a point of leaders Real Madrid.
Barca took full advantage of Real’s 4-0 derby defeat by champions Atletico Madrid on Saturday with a victory that moved them up to 53 points, leaving the defending champions three points adrift of them.
Barca took the lead from a Messi free kick that deflected off the wall and wrong-footed keeper Gorka Iraizoz after 15 minutes. The Argentine then played in Luis Suarez who fired home from 20 yards, which helped take the pressure of the former Liverpool striker who had not scored in six games, Stuff.co.nz reported.
Suarez also had a header saved from point-blank range by Iraizoz earlier.
Mikel Rico pulled a goal back for the hosts in the 59th minute but their celebrations had barely died down when Oscar De Marcos put the ball into his own net after Messi knocked a cross goalwards.
Messi then set up Neymar for a clinical finish after 65 minutes.
Athletic kept attacking with Aritz Aduriz scoring but then they had Xabier Etxeita dismissed for a high tackle on Suarez.
Barca sealed the win with a close range fifth goal from substitute Pedro Rodriguez with Messi again playing a part in the build up, the report added.