Ronald Koeman: “We will fight until the last game”

Athletic Club and Barcelona locked horns this evening in a fascinating La Liga clash at San Mames, with the Blaugrana eventually triumphing 3-2.

The result meant that Barcelona climbed into third place to put them behind just Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid. The Catalans are still some distance away from the pair from the capital, but the optics at least will raise spirits.

Ronald Koeman, speaking after the game, was content with his team’s performance and felt the scoreline flattered Athletic somewhat. Pedri and Lionel Messi came in for special praise.

Lionel Messi and Pedri

“The final result falls a bit short because we have been superior in many phases,” he said post-match in comments carried by Marca. “They went 1-0 up and we weren’t so coordinated defensively, but then we controlled the game.

“I’m happy with the result and how we achieved it. We deserved to win the game and have this opportunity. The teamwork has phenomenal, and we will fight until the last game.

“There’s a distance, but we’re on the right track. Pedri is showing that despite his youth he is very mature. Messi’s game and the demonstration of his will is always evident, but today he really showed it with his goals. He was very important.”

It was a game that mattered a great deal to both sides, and an action-packed opening period underlined that.

It was Athletic that struck first blood, Inaki Williams showing both physical pace and speed-of-thought to latch on to a through ball, hold it up and coolly finish past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Barcelona hit back inside the opening quarter of an hour. Messi hiked a high ball crossfield to find Frenkie de Jong at the back post, who brought the ball back across goal for Pedri to score. Unai Simon could have perhaps done better.

Inaki Williams

Shortly before half-time, the Blaugrana took a deserved lead. Messi played a cute ball in to Pedri, who delayed for a moment before back-heeling into the path of Messi, who had broken, for the Argentine to coolly finish.

Messi struck the upright and had a goal ruled out for offside, but eventually got his team the two-goal cushion they desired. This time, it was Antoine Griezmann rather than Pedri who teed up the Argentine to finish accurately.

Messi gave the ball away late on, however, to open up a play that ended with Iker Muniain curling an excellent effort past Ter Stegen before hurrying his teammates to get back, restart and push for an equaliser. It was too late, however, and the points went home to Catalonia.

Tags Athletic Club Barcelona La Liga Ronald Koeman