Beaten in midweek by Arsenal in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie, Barcelona took only four minutes to settle back into their stride at the Camp Nou. David Villa provided the finish, and although Athletic levelled five minutes after half-time through Andoni Iraola’s penalty, Lionel Messi made the difference with his 25th league goal this season 12 minutes before the end.
That defeat means Athletic Bilbao now lie eight points behind fourth-placed Villarreal, who drew 1-1 against Málaga. Marco Ruben had given the Yellow Submarine a 36th-minute lead, but Manuel Pellegrini’s side secured a point against his former employers thanks to Sebastián Fernández’s strike eight minutes from time.
Málaga remain bottom, a solitary point adrift of Almería, who were denied victory in dramatic circumstances at home against Deportivo La Coruña. Trailing 1-0 five minutes into added time, the visitors snatched a point when goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia went forward for a corner and headed in a remarkable equaliser.