Guardiola: 'I'm proud of my players'
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola insisted he had seldom been prouder of his side despite their battling draw away to Athletic Bilbao causing them to lose ground in the Primera Division title race.
Lionel Messi scored in injury time to preserve Barca's unbeaten start to the season as they struggled to a 2-2 draw in heavy rain at the Estadio San Mames.
That result, coupled with Real Madrid's 7-1 thrashing of Osasuna earlier in the day, left Guardiola's team three points behind Madrid at the top of La Liga.
In spite of that, Guardiola was delighted by how his team had scrapped against an Athletic team he described as "beasts" for their work rate and determination.
He told reporters after the game in quotes carried by Barca's official website: "How can I not be happy with the spectacular show that the 22 players put on for us?
"Everyone enjoyed this marvellous game thanks to these very good players. This was an ode to football.
"There are few days where I can be prouder of my players. They completely understood the requirements of the match...It means a lot to come here and have the opposing team only reach your area three times."
Guardiola made a point of congratulating his Athletic counterpart Marcelo Bielsa at the final whistle.
"I told him that (his players) are beasts," he added.
"I had never played against a team so intense and aggressive."
Argentinian coach Bielsa said: "It wouldn't have been fair for us to win. The draw corresponds with what I saw on the pitch."
Barcelona conceded for the first time in 900 minutes of football and appeared destined for defeat when Gerard Pique's own goal gave Athletic the lead with 10 minutes to go.
But Messi took advantage of a slip from Gorka Iraizoz in a drenched penalty area to lash home a late equaliser.
Cesc Fabregas had earlier cancelled out Ander Herrera's opener.