La Liga: Athletic Bilbao 2 Barcelona 2
Athletic Bilbao scored a dramatic last-minute equaliser to earn a 2-2 draw against Barcelona on Saturday.
Goals from Markel Susaeta and Ander Herrera eased Bilbao's relegation fears, as they took advantage of another poor performance from the Catalan side. Tito Vilanova opted to rest Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta following their UEFA Champions League exploits, handing Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song starts instead.
Meanwhile, Marcelo Bielsa fielded an attacking line-up, with his side hoping to move up the table with a win against potentially leggy opponents. It was Athletic who started the brighter of the two sides, as Barcelona failed to settle after their embarrassing defeat to Bayern Munich in midweek. Despite that, the Catalan outfit had the first real chance of the game, as a Xavi free-kick was headed over by Gerard Pique after Dani Alves had been fouled. Almost immediately, Alexis Sanchez hit the post with a right-footed drive after being set up by Fabregas with the goalkeeper stranded.
Bilbao soon replied, with Mikel San Jose getting a header on target but failing to truly test Victor Valdes due to a lack of power.
But Athletic followed up that missed opportunity by taking the lead through Susaeta, with Aritz Aduriz cutting in from the left and drilling the ball across the box for his team-mate to tap home.
Buoyed by their goal, Athletic soon carved out a great chance to double their lead, only for Aduriz to head over from six yards as the hosts went in 1-0 up at the break.
Adriano was introduced at half-time as Vilanova went with a more attacking formatio,n but it was still Athletic who looked more likely to score.
Susaeta nearly doubled his tally and Athletic’s lead with a free-kick from the edge of the box but his dipping effort rattled the crossbar with Valdes stranded before Aduriz also struck the woodwork from the rebound.
With 30 minutes remaining and things looking desperate, Vilanova had little option but to call on talisman Messi from the bench. And he immediately took charge as first his shot was blocked before he slid in Pedro whose effort was well saved by Gorka Iraizoz. Almost inevitably, the Argentine then brought the Catalans level, taking on four defenders before sliding the ball past the keeper from just inside the box.
Barcelona then added a quick second as Messi's header fell to Sanchez who volleyed it in from six yards. Vilanova's side could in fact have added a third late on when a Messi free-kick went wide of the post, but it was Bilbao who had the last word as Herrera powered home a shot from 12 yards to give the game a dramatic ending.
The result means that Barcelona will have to wait another week to wrap up the title, while Bilbao are now nine points clear of relegation, with five games to play.