Barcelona took full advantage of Gorka Iraizoz’s early red card to demolish a weakened Athletic Bilbao 6-0 in La Liga on Sunday.
The Catalans made seven changes from the midweek win at Espanyol, starting with Claudio Bravo replacing Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal and Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique coming into defence.Moving up the pitch, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta wereback in midfield, while the ‘MSN’ of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar all started in attack.
Athletic, meanwhile, replaced the suspended Aduriz with Muniain as Oscar de Marcos continued as Los Leones’ No 10 in Garcia’s absence, with the side hoping to cause another shock at Camp Nou after their 4-0 Supercopa triumph in August and two games without a win in La Liga.
However, their bid took a hefty blow just four minutes in as goalkeeper Iraizoz recklessly took out Suarez on goal and subsequently saw red. It was then left to Messi, who paraded his fifth FIFA Ballon d’Or prior to kick-off, to drill the penalty into the bottom-right corner of substitute Iago Herrerin’s net.
Barca continued to probe at will, with Athletic being forced to retreat ever further back and feed off any rare crumbs which fell their way, and they finally found a second goal shortly after the half-hour mark, Suarez unselfishly releasing Neymar for a delicate chip over Herrerin.
The best of Athletic’s chances came through De Marcos, who fired a one-one into Claudio Bravo and then blazed over Sabin Merino’s square ball at the far post, and with that came the cue for the Catalans to soundly finish off their opponents.
Intricate play in and around the final third resulted in Suarez grabbing Barcas third shortly after the restart, before Neymar conjured up the assist of the season, bamboozling two Athletic defenders and cutting the ball back for Ivan Rakitic, who was left with a simple tap-in.
La Blaugrana were in no mood to let up, despite Messi’s half-time substitution and the game having been long secured, and Suarez took his time in picking his spot for 5-0, before claiming the match ball with a powerful header eight minutes from time.
Barcelona 6-0 Athletic Bilbao
Messi pen 7, Neymar 31, Suarez 47, 68, 82, Rakitic 62 (B) Iraizoz sent off 4 (AB)
Barcelona: Bravo; Vidal, Pique, Mascherano, Alba (Bartra 69); Busquets, Rakitic (Sergi 63), Iniesta; Messi (Arda 46), Suarez, Neymar
Athletic Bilbao: Iraizoz; Boveda, Etxeita, Laporte, Balenziaga; San Jose, Benat (Iturraspe 63); Eraso, De Marcos, Williams (Sabin 56); Muniain (Herrerin 6)
Referee: Mateu Lahoz