‘Athletic know how to play Barca’

Ernesto Valverde praised Athletic Bilbao for their 2-1 victory over Barcelona on Thursday but insisted “it’s not the first time we’ve played like this against them”.

Goals from Aritz Aduriz and Inaki Williams gave Athletic a slender advantage in their Copa del Rey last-16 tie with Barcelona, despite Lionel Messi’s response, and Valverde felt his side were finally rewarded for their bravery against the competition holders.

“It was a tough game, with a lot of tension, as they all are against Barcelona,” the Coach said after the match.

“We were good in the first half and carried that into the second half. Then Messi scored a great goal.

“We had to sit deep due to the red cards and ended the game very tired from the pressure we applied.

“Luckily, the last kick didn’t go in for Barca and now we have a small advantage [in the tie].

“It’s not the first time we’ve played like this against them. We thought it was the best way to play them.

“Although they pinned us back at times, we were good in others. We made chances. It’s hard to go the whole game like we did.

“Matches in the Camp Nou are very long-winded, but we have a small advantage. We’ve done better than last season, when we lost 2-1 in the first leg.

“The tie is still open, but we’re very happy with how the match went.”

Tags Ernesto Valverde