Messi scores as unbeaten Barca defeat Bilbao

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Argentine superstar, Lionel Messi was on target in Barcelona's victory over Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou on Sunday, as the Catalans maintained their unbeaten La Liga record this season.

Messi had scored 16 goals in 18 games against Athletic at Camp Nou coming into this clash and he nearly improved on that tally as early as the fourth minute with a curling free-kick that Kepa Arrizabalaga tipped over the crossbar.

It was Messi's 25th league goal of the season, remarkably the ninth season in a row that he has achieved the feat.

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"We played wonderfully in the first half but in the second we relaxed a bit and didn't create as many opportunities", Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. Some players have little knocks - like [Thomas] Vermaelen, we hope it's nothing big.

A dominant start from Barca yielded the opening goal after just eight minutes as Messi found Jordi Alba out on the left, his pull back neatly side-footed into the far corner by Paco Alcacer, filling in for the suspended Luis Suarez.

Coutinho struck the frame of the goal for a second time, looping an effort onto the top of the bar after an impudent flick from Paulinho, who followed his compatriot in going close by curling a shot off the outside of the post as the interval approached. "If we stay on this course, we will be closer to our goal although there are still 27 points to play for".

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However, following a measured second 45, which saw the tempo sucked out of the contest, Barca were again unable to force the scoreline to truly reflect their supremacy, although the champions elect extended their points buffer over Atletico Madrid to 11 points - with Diego Simeone's side visiting Villarreal later in the afternoon. Javi Eraso doubled the lead in the 69th minute.

Sevilla face a torrid few weeks with leaders Barcelona next up in La Liga on March 31 before they host Bayern Munich on April 3 in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals.

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