First Division - Day 19

Barcelona 2 - Athletic Bilbao 1

Barcelona: Víctor Valdés; Oleguer, Puyol, Márquez, Van Bronckhorst; Van Bommel (Iniesta 76'), Edmilson, Deco; Messi (Larsson 83'), Eto'o, Ronaldinho. 4-3-3.
Athletic: Lafuente; Murillo, Lacruz (Iraola 54'), Amorebieta, Luis Prieto, Expósito; Etxeberría, Orbaiz, Gurpegui, Yeste (Julen Guerrero 63'); Llorente (Aduriz 63'). 5-4-1.

Team changes: Barça: Márquez, Van Bommel for Belletti, Motta / Athletic: Lafuente, Murillo, Luis Prieto, Gurpegui, Yeste, Llorente for Aranzubia, Iraola, Tiko, Julen Guerrero, Dañobeitia, Aduriz.

0-1. 16. Llorente. Angled header down past Valdés from Yeste's cross.
1-1. 38. Ronaldinho (penalty). After ball hit Amorebieta on arm in area.
2-1. 50. Messi. Following up after Lafuente pushed out Van Bommel shot.

Barcelona ended the first half of the league seven points clear at the top after beating Athletic Bilbao 2-1, extending their run of straight wins to 17 matches. They struggled at first though, Gurpegui and Llorente both heading wide before Llorente bent low to head Yeste's cross past Valdés following a short corner.

Javier Clemente had given Lafuente a first start in the league following Aranzubia's disastrous performance against Deportivo, and the keeper did well to save from Eto'o. Valdés kept out Etxeberría at the other end, but soon afterwards Amorebieta cut out a cross from Ronaldinho with his arm, and Ronaldinho scored from the resulting penalty once the protests had died down.

Llorente could have restored the lead when he headed over the bar unmarked from Yeste's corner, but just five minutes in to the second half Messi put the hosts ahead after the keeper could only push out a shot from Van Bommel. And a few minutes later Van Bommel could have extended the lead when he crashed a shot against the bar, Ronaldinho providing lasting memories with an exquisite back-heel pass which eventually came to nothing after the defence only partly cleared.

Tempers frayed in the end though as niggling fouls became more serious, and Deco got himself sent off after pulling Gurpegui's hair after a cynical foul by the midfielder. Eto'o also lost his cool in his last game before going on to the Africa cup, and was caught on camera spitting at Expósito who had tormented him throughout the match. A sad end to a historic match, and Athletic ended what has been their worst ever start to the season further down in the relegation spots.