FC Barcelona showed character at the Camp Nou on Sunday.
Beaten by their foes Athletic Bilbao in dramatic fashion a few weeks ago, an extra time loss to the Basques in the Super Cup final ended with captain Lionel Messi receiving a red card for rabbit punching Asier Villalibre.
The Argentine receiving his first dismissal in 753 outings for the Blaugrana, it seemed to be his way out letting out frustration after yet another trophy slipped from his grasp and extended a 20 month drought at the club.
Finally returning to action last night after two matches out suspended, the number 10 took the bull by the horns amid alleged details of his contract being published by Madrid-daily El Mundo.
Approaching half time, his first converted free kick in what seemed an age glided into Unai Simon’s top corner and even beat a hapless man on the post.
Messi lifting his hands to the sky as always to mark his 650th Barcelona goal, there later came subsequent claims that the Ballon d’Or holder is worth every penny of his supposed $671mn deal.
Then, swiftly following the whistle to signify the start of the second half, the boat was rocked.
Jordi Alba scored an own goal, and it again seemed after numerous chances squandered that the Catalans had thrown away a lead and much needed maximum points.
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Still they labored, and with the excellent work of Ousmane Dembele, Frenkie de Jong and Oscar Mingueza, a breakthrough was found in the 74th minute when Antoine Griezmann terminated an excellent move with a clever finish.
Making a point of including the substitutes in his celebrations, the Frenchman helped maintain a growing sense of union across Ronald Koeman’s squad that is also being aided by a string of impressive results.
While the loss to Athletic Club broke an eight-match unbeaten run overall in mid-January, SPORT point out on Monday morning that Barca have now gone ten games without losing in La Liga and have won their last five while scoring 12, conceding three and keeping a trio of clean sheets.
Claiming 26 points of the last 30 on offer, with draws only to Valencia and Eibar at the Camp Nou, FCB have now overtaken bitter rivals Real Madrid to move up to second in the Spanish top flight table.
Ten points behind Atletico Madrid, who also have a game in hand on them, the title may be out of reach yet Barca sure appear intent on fighting for it until the very end.
Source: Forbes – Business