Messi scores as unbeaten Barca defeat Bilbao


19 March, 2018 10:07 AM

Messi scores as unbeaten Barca defeat Bilbao

Photo: Getty Images

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Barcelona maintained their unbeaten La Liga record this season as they cruised to victory over Athletic Bilbao.

The hosts scored after only eight minutes when Paco Alcacer, who replaced the suspended Luis Suarez, steered in Jordi Alba's pull-back.

Lionel Messi made it 2-0 with a low 20-yard strike following good work by team-mate Ousmane Dembele.

Philippe Coutinho also hit the crossbar twice and Paulinho hit the post for La Liga's leaders.

Barcelona are 11 points clear at the top of the table and second-placed Atletico Madrid lost 2-1 at Villarreal on Sunday.

Antoine Griezmann's penalty put Atletico ahead, but two goals in the last eight minutes from Enes Unal gave Villareal the win. Atletico also finished with 10 men as Vitolo was dismissed in injury time.

No team has gone an entire 38-game La Liga campaign without defeat; Barcelona have nine league games remaining, having won 23 and drawn six of 29 matches played so far.

The record for an unbeaten run from the start of a La Liga season is 32 games, set by Real Sociedad in 1979-80.

"We only have 27 points left (to play for) and we will try to win them all," said Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde. "Carrying on like this will help us reach our objective.

"We dominated in the first half and created lots of goalscoring opportunities: we were brilliant.

"In the second half, we were solid. The team and the players are showing that we attack and defend all together."

Barcelona missed out on the league title to Real Madrid last season, but are on course to win the treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League in 2017-18.

On Wednesday, they secured a 3-0 win over Chelsea to seal a 4-1 aggregate victory in the last 16 of the Champions League and Valverde's side will be confident of overcoming quarter-final opponents Roma.

Barca have also reached the Copa del Rey final, in which they will play Sevilla on 21 April, and are heading towards their 25th La Liga title.