Football

Ronald Koeman hails Barca's benchmark win over Athletic Bilbao

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman was glowing with pride after his side's 3-2 win over Athletic Bilbao yesterday morning (Singapore time) and said the performance was a benchmark for the remainder of the season.

Barca fell behind in the third minute to an Inaki Williams goal during a counter-attack, but responded emphatically with goals from Pedri and a resurgent Lionel Messi either side of half-time before Iker Muniain struck late for the hosts.

"That's the way we need to continue. I felt like we controlled the game the whole time and there were barely any dips in our play," said Koeman.

The win lifted Barca into third place in the standings and led Koeman to reassess previous pessimistic comments about his side's faint chances of catching leaders Atletico Madrid, who lead the Catalan side by seven points with two games in hand.

"The title race is still open because the season is very long. There can be injuries, teams can have downturns and a side that looks very good can end up struggling," he said.

The Dutchman also praised Messi, who produced arguably his best performance of the season and was unlucky not to grab a hat-trick.

"Messi has given everything since day one, he has spent so many years at the very top level but it seems that now he has become even more effective," Koeman said. - REUTERS

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