As Barcelona spoiled Marcelino’s first match in charge of Athletic Bilbao with a difficult 3-2 victory at San Mames, Lionel Messi scored twice.
Inaki Williams made an immediate impact on the new boss of Athletic – appointed following Gaizka Garitano’s dismissal – by scoring for the home team on Wednesday within three minutes.
The forward ran clear from inside his own half, capitalizing on a ridiculously high defensive line, and, after cutting back from Clement Lenglet’s half-hearted challenge, fired low past Marc-Andre ter Stegen to break the deadlock.
With Messi leading the way, however, Barca emerged from the drawback to turn the game around, although with some support from the hosts, by the interval.
The alert Frenkie de Jong reached out to volley the ball back into the middle for Pedri to nod into an unguarded net. Unai Simon was tempted to deal with Messi’s apparently over-hit cross for the equaliser.
When his side conceded seven minutes before the break, the Agile goalkeeper was caught again, Pedri the provider as his clever back-heeled assist set up the supporting Messi to move the ball in, Simon – who had initially rushed out expecting the teenager to shoot – stranded out of position.
Early in the second half, Athletic briefly attempted a recovery of their own, but it was still their rivals who held the much greater threat in attack.
Messi eventually scored again when he swept Antoine Griezmann’s square pass home through the underside of the crossbar, having seen a goal ruled out for offside and a long-range shot blocked by a post.
When a turnover in possession allowed Alex Berenguer to tee up Iker Muniain for a first-time finish that cut the gap in the 90th minute, there was late drama, but Barca held firm to claim all three points.