Rakitic rescues win for sluggish Barcelona

The star-studded front three of Barcelona which includes Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann, however, failed to sparkle on Tuesday.

FC Barcelona

Ivan Rakitic, second right, celebrates with his Barca teammate Lionel Messi after scoring the opening goal against Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou on Tuesday.   -  AP

Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic came off the bench to give his side a 1-0 win at home to Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday, averting a second consecutive draw which would have further dented the champion's La Liga title defence.

Barca had slipped off the top of the table after Friday's 0-0 draw at Sevilla and put in another sluggish display at an empty Camp Nou, as the star-studded front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann failed to sparkle.

As it happened

The side finally found a way through in the 71st minute when Messi slipped the ball into the path of Rakitic, who had only been on the pitch for six minutes and kept his nerve to beat Athletic's in-form goalkeeper Unai Simon.

The win took Barca to the top of the standings on 68 points although Real Madrid, on 65, will reclaim its lead due to its superior head-to-head record if it beats Real Mallorca at home on Wednesday.

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