As Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao, Lionel Messi scored twice to finish third in La Liga. Via Inaki Williams, Athletic took an early lead, but teenager Pedri soon afterward equalized with a header.

Messi, who hit the post twice as well, then scored by collecting the backheel of Pedri and firing past Unai Simon.

Despite a late 20-yard strike by Athletic’s Iker Muniain, a strong first-time shot from Messi made it 3-1 and Barcelona held on for the win.

The victory puts the side of Ronald Koeman above Real Sociedad and Villarreal; they are five points behind second-placed Real Madrid and seven points behind the Atletico Madrid champions, who have two games in hand.

This was Athletic’s first game since Marcelino replaced former head coach Gaizka Garitano, who had been sacked hours after a 1-0 victory over Elche on Sunday.

It took only three minutes for Marcelino’s side to go ahead as Williams sprinted clear, then sliced defender Clement Lenglet inside to score.

However, as Messi’s cross went over Simon’s head, their lead lasted just 11 minutes and Frenkie de Jong hooked the ball to Pedri to equalize.

Messi’s first goal came after a one-two with Pedri just before halftime and he scored his second after Antoine Griezmann’s square pass with a strong first-time shot.

Messi then gave the ball away and Muniain scored from Alex Berenguer’s pass, but it wasn’t enough to deny Barcelona a victory.

Barcelona has played seven La Liga matches undefeated, with five victories and two draws, after losing 3-0 at home to Juventus in the Champions League on 8 December.


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