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Messi maintains Barca's title bid

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

MADRID - Barcelona has maintained their slim chances of retaining their La Liga title as they came from behind to beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 at the Camp Nou.

Aritz Aduriz's opener five minutes into the second-half had Barca on course for a fourth consecutive defeat in all competitions.

However, the Catalans showed fine spirit to respond as two goals in as many minutes from Pedro Rodriguez and Lionel Messi handed them all three points.

Victory lifts Barca into second place, two points ahead of Real Madrid having played a game more, but still four points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid with four games remaining.

With Jordi Alba and Neymar added to Barca's growing injury list, coach Gerardo Martino made four changes to the side that lost the Copa del Rey final to Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Pedro was one of those to come into the side and he wasted the first opening of the game as he placed his shot too close to Gorka Iraizoz when clean through before the Athletic goalkeeper also smothered an effort from Messi.

It was the visitors who nearly went in front in spectacular style on the half hour, though, as Aduriz sent a stunning overhead kick crashing off the inside of the post and Jose Manuel Pinto reacted well to parry Markel Susaeta's follow-up effort.

Barca were shocked into action by that scare and should have been in front moments later when Alexis Sanchez turned Pedro's low cross onto the crossbar.

Iraizoz then made two more comfortable saves from Pedro and Sanchez to send Athletic in level at the break and things got even better for the Basque side five minutes after the break when Aduriz's low strike this time found the bottom corner of the net. Barca then laid siege to the Athletic goal as Pedro again shot straight at Iraizoz when clean through before Messi also wasted a great chance when he pulled his shot wide of the target.

The hosts did finally find a way through 18 minutes from time in somewhat fortunate circumstances as Sanchez's intended shot fell perfectly into the path of Pedro to tap home his 19th goal of the season.

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