BARCELONA: Lionel Messi scored his 650th goal for Barcelona while Antoine Griezmann struck the winner in a 2-1 home success over Athletic Bilbao in La Liga on Sunday, avenging a defeat by the Basque side in the Spanish Super Cup final.
Messi curled in a stunning free kick after 20 minutes for his milestone goal on the same day the club pledged to sue Spanish newspaper El Mundo for publishing the full details of the Argentine’s contract.
Ronald Koeman’s side recorded a fifth straight Liga win and moved above Real Madrid into second on goal difference with 40 points, 10 behind Atletico Madrid who have a game in hand.
Messi had missed a gilt-edged chance at the start when he fired straight at keeper Unai Simon and Barca spurned several more opportunities to increase their lead before halftime.
Athletic, who had won their previous five matches in all competitions in a flying start under new coach Marcelino, failed to get going but levelled in the 49th thanks to an own goal.
Jordi Alba tried to prevent Athletic’s Oscar de Marcos reaching a cross but instead prodded into the Barca net.
The hosts struggled to respond but finally restored their lead in the 74th when Griezmann, who had scored twice in the 3-2 Super Cup final defeat, arrived in the box to knock home a cross from defender Oscar Mingueza.
Griezmann paid tribute to Messi after the game when asked whether the Argentine, who tried to leave Barcelona in the close season, was being pushed further away from the club.
“We’re all enjoying Messi, he’s a legend and we hope he can continue to help the club to win,” said the Frenchman.
Athletic defender Inigo Martinez said his side had the misfortune to face Messi when he seemed out to prove a point.
“We all know Messi’s quality. When he’s all fired up like he was today he scores goals like that and there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said.