Rakitic late strike rescues Barca

Ivan Rakitic scored the only goal as Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao to move back to the top of La Liga.

Rakitic latched onto Lionel Messi’s cutback before slotting home with 19 minutes to go.

It was a 15th La Liga assist of the season for Messi, who remains on 699 career goals despite going close himself on two separate occasions in the closing stages.

In a tight title race, Barca’s fierce rivals Real Madrid can go back to the top if they beat Mallorca on Wednesday.

With Real Madrid having a better head-to-head record, Barca need their rivals to slip up even if they win every remaining game.

Mid-table Athletic had beaten the Catalans twice this season – on the opening day of La Liga and in the Copa del Rey quarter-final – but failed to test goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen once.

Messi, who turns 33 today, was hoping his 700th career goal would come – and he was close when he cut in and curled wide, before again missing the target from Ansu Fati’s pass, although the ball was defected for a corner.


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