Messi salvages draw for Barca with stoppage time goal

Arcelona: Lionel Messi`s stoppage-time goal salvaged a 2-2 draw for Barcelona against Athletic Bilbao after an epic La Liga clash at a rain-soaked San Mames on Sunday.

Midfielder Ander Herrera put Bilbao ahead in the 20th minute at San Mames stadium before Cesc Fabregas drew the visitors even with a header four minutes later.

Bilbao appeared set to get the win after Gerard Pique scored an own goal in the 80th, but Messi slotted home his league-leading 14th goal in the 91st to split the points.

"At the end we showed our mettle," said Fabregas, whose Barcelona remained undefeated in 18 games in all competitions to start the season.

Under steady rain, Barcelona and Bilbao set a frenetic, up-and-down pace from the start.

Bilbao coach Marcelo Bielsa sought to beat Barcelona at its own game by pressing the European champions and looking for young playmakers Iker Muniain and Ander to create chances for Spain striker Fernando Llorente.

"We aimed to take the game to them," Ander said.

Bilbao`s daring approach paid off when Ander received a pass from Markel Susaeta at the edge of the area and curled his right footer into the right side of the net for the opener.

Bilbao goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz did well to block Dani Alves` strike from a set piece, but could do nothing when Fabregas rose above his marker to guide home Eric Abidal`s well-placed cross to momentarily silence the crowd.

Puddles of water appeared on the pitch after halftime, slowing down the ball but not the flow of the game.

Bilbao went ahead for the second time when Abidal`s clearance took a deflection off Llorente before Pique inadvertently redirected in into his own net.

But in the dying moments Messi pounced on his own rebound to fire it into the corner of the net to earn the away draw.

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola was full of praise for both teams.

"How they run, I`ve never seen a team run so much, how they plug the spaces. It`s absolutely (a Bielsa) team," Guardiola said about Bilbao, which is undefeated in 10 straight games overall.

"What a spectacle these 22 players put on. This is one of the best games that I have been in and that`s because both teams went out to win."

Bureau Report

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