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Messi's goal helps Barcelona sink Athletic Bilbao

Barca's Messi celebrates a goal with Neymar during the match vs Athletic Bilbao. Pic/AP

Barcelona: Barcelona closed the gap on La Liga leaders Real Madrid to just a point with a 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao at the Nou Camp. Paco Alcacer opened the scoring on 18 minutes with his first league goal for the club and after the visitors had failed to make the most of their chances, Lionel Messi's free-kick squirmed past Bilbao keeper Gorka Iraizoz five minutes before half-time.

Defender Aleix Vidal added a third midway through the second half for Luis Enrique's side, who have now played two matches more than Real Madrid.

Barcelona coach Enrique mixed up his starting XI, with Luis Suarez rested and Alcacer coming into the frontline. Bilbao, who were unbeaten in their previous five league games, saw defender Yeray Alvarez return to the team having been diagnosed with testicular cancer. Neymar's booking in the Copa del Rey semis first leg victory over Atletico Mardid meant he would miss next week's return at the Nou Camp.

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