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Messi shines as Barca win at Athletic Bilbao; Man City outclass Man United to reach League Cup final

Pep Guardiola, Manchester City Manager
Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi was at the top of his game as FC Barcelona earned a 3-2 win at Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday to move up to third in La Liga.
Athletic Bilbao got off to a dream start in their first match under new coach Marcelino when forward Inaki Williams latched on to a low through ball and raced towards goal.
He beat one defender before firing low into the net in the third minute.
Barca quickly responded, however, with a sensational team goal, Messi delivering a superb pass to pick out Frenkie de Jong by the byline.
The Dutchman volleyed the ball back across the area for 18-year-old Pedri to head home.
Messi and Pedri then combined beautifully to put Barca ahead.
The youngster received a pass from the Argentine before returning it with a delightful backheel and Messi rolled the ball into the bottom corner in the 38th minute.
Messi struck again in the 62nd minute to finish off another brilliant team move.
He missed a couple of chances to complete his hat-trick, although Iker Muniain made for a tense finale by scoring for Athletic Bilbao in the 90th minute.
Barca clung on to earn a first win in four matches away to Athletic Bilbao, having failed to score on their last three trips to San Mames.
The win took Ronald Koeman’s side above Real Sociedad and into third in the standings on 31 points, seven points behind leaders Atletico Madrid who have two games in hand on the Catalans.
“When you concede so early it’s normal to drop your heads but we showed a lot of self-belief to make sure that didn’t happen,” said Pedri.
“We knew it was an important game. That’s how we approached it. We knew they’d look for Inaki with his speed but we overcame that and got three very important points.”
Athletic Bilbao forward Williams said his side had played well but were powerless to stop Barca when Messi was on top form.
“We played a good first half. We were the Athletic Bilbao we wanted to be, but we were up against the best player in the world and he swung the game in a different direction,” he said.
“The goals they scored tonight were fantastic and there’s very little you can do to defend against performances like that.”
Meanwhile, Manchester City reached their fourth straight League Cup final after a 2-0 win over Manchester United in Wednesday’s semi-final at Old Trafford.
Two second half goals from John Stones and Fernandinho gave Pep Guardiola’s side victory in the match.
Manchester City will now meet Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley in the April 25 final as they seek their fourth League Cup triumph in a row.
In a frantic opening to the game, both teams had efforts ruled out for offside.
Stones turned the ball into his own net but he was saved by the flag.
Also, Ilkay Gundogan converted a low ball in from Phil Foden but, again, the attempt was rightly ruled out.
Kevin De Bruyne struck the post with a thundering drive from outside the penalty box.
Later on, Foden also put the ball in the net for Manchester City but the visitors were foiled by offside once again.
It was an open and entertaining game, with Manchester City looking sharper.
But Manchester United were competitive as they sought revenge for last year’s defeat by their neighbours at the same stage of the competition.
Manchester City then went ahead five minutes after the break when Foden whipped in a free-kick from the left through a crowded box.
Defender Stones bundled a cross home at the back post, the ball going in off his thigh.
Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson produced a brilliant save to tip over a strike from Riyad Mahrez, after the Algerian had burst forward from the halfway line.
Fernandinho made sure of the win seven minutes from time with a stunning volley as he pounced on a headed clearance from Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Manchester United have now lost at the semi-final stage in their last four Cup campaigns, leaving manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer still searching for his first final since taking over at the club.
“We’re getting closer. This is a much better version of Manchester United than a year ago in those semis,” said the Norwegian.
“It’s not psychological, sometimes you meet good teams in the semis. Manchester City are probably the best team in England at the moment,” he added.
Manchester City entered the field in number eight shirts in tribute to former player Colin Bell who died on Tuesday and Guardiola said they had honoured his memory.
“It’s for Colin Bell and his family. He helped to build something special for this club. It’s an incredible victory for us to beat Manchester United away and it was for him absolutely,” he said.
“The team is ready and it was an outstanding performance. We dipped a little bit in the second half, we were tired… But when the team has this mentality they can do something incredible. It’s not the Champions League but four times in a row to reach the final —– I’m so impressed,” he said.

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