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Monday, February 26, 2007

Spanish League, Barcelona 3-0 Athletic Bilbao. Match report and video highlights.

Barca back to their best at the Camp Nou, cruising to a 3-0 win over Athletic Bilbao. A goal for Eto'o and a fantastic contribution from Ronaldinho were the basis for the victory, leaving Barca in a stronger position at the top of the league.
Barca not only won but also showed their class and dominance. And all that against one of the best teams away from home, Mane's Athletic Bilbao, and with 3 goals in the first 45 minutes. With Eto'o back in attack, Pujol and Thuram impeccable in defence, Iniesta in control of the midfield, Guily at his incisive best and an excellent Ronaldinho, Barca gave one of their best performances of the season. Barca made it clear in the first few minutes that they intended to get the ball out to the wings and use their speed. Guily was the best example trying to surprise the defence with every attack. With Eto'o on the pitch creating and closing down space, Bilbao's defence started to leave gaps which Barca did their best to take advantage of. It was however Yeste who got a first shot at goal in the 13th minute, showing that Bilbao were determined to make Barca sweat for the 3 points. Both defences looked pretty secure in the opening stages with Bilbao well organised, while Pujol and Thuram as centrebacks gave little option to the potentially dangerous Urzaia.

It was proving somewhat difficult for Barca to make clear chances on the goal defended by Aranzubia, and it wasn't until the 19th minute that Gio had a shot deflected wide. On 22 Guily skipped past Casa and his low cross was turned into his own net by Amorebieta under pressure from Eto'o, 1-0. Spurred on by the breakthrough, Xavi had a long shot stopped by Aranzubia a minute later, and then in the 29th minute converted an excellent Eto'o pass to make it 2-0.

As the game continued
Eto'o was gaining in confidence and increasingly looked like scoring. After a couple of failed attempts he broke the offside trap, latched onto a Ronaldinho pass and cooly took his time to slot a left footed shot past Aranzubia. After so many months anxious to see Eto'o score the Camp Nou celebrated as might be expected.

Bilbao brought on a forward Aduritz for a midfielder Murillo, Mané making it clear that he wasn't giving up the game. This created more space across the pitch and gave Barca even more opportunity to take advantage. Iniesta took over the midfield, moving between lines with ease. He might have scored the fourth after a wonderful move ended with his shot rebounding off the post back onto his left foot, only for him to shoot high when it seemed easier to score. Barca were 100% in control, Thuram and Puyol weren't giving anything away at the back either.

In the 59th minute Ronaldinho beat three players in a magical display of skill and from an impossibly tight angle chipped the ball over Aranzubia, only to see the keeper get a fingertip touch to the ball, enough to send it on to the bar. Fantastic stuff. Eto'o couldn't help but laugh and hold his head in his hands at the show of skill from his teammate. Soon after Eto'o was taken off to rapturous applause, replaced by Messi.

With the result no longer in doubt, Ronaldinho took over. Everytime the number 10 got the ball the crowd waited in expectation to see which trick he'd pull off. And he didn't disappoint. Treading in the ball, backheeling he left the defence in tatters. More good news for Barca when Sylvinho came on for Edmílson, his first outing after a month long injury. Gio moved into the middle and the Dutchman gave even more attacking options. The dying moments saw Barca cruise to victory, Ronaldinho and Messi showing what they can do and the Camp Nou enjoying every minute. Barca are back to their best.

Match Goals and Highlights:

Special Thanks to Mony.