Athletic Club vs. Barcelona – Football Match Report – March 12, 2023

Barcelona winger Raphinha secured a second consecutive 1-0 LaLiga win at Athletic Bilbao as his side tightened their grip on the top spot ahead of a potentially season-defining week in which they host second-placed Real Madrid.

Raphinha repeated the combination of assist and goalscorer from last week’s 1-0 win at Valencia, scoring a thunderous goal right at half-time after a brilliant pass from midfielder Sergio Busquets who spotted the Brazilian behind the defence.

– Marsden: Barca win via VAR controversy, historic defence

But Raphinha’s goal was one of just two Barca shots on target in the game as they survived a hectic affair in which the hosts were the better side for much of the game.

Athletic saw two shots over the bar and an attempt by Inaki Williams in the final minutes of the game was ruled out over a controversial handball in the build-up.

Barcelona have 65 points, nine ahead of second-placed Real, who face a competitive game at the Camp Nou next Sunday to keep their slim chances of lifting the title alive. Athletic is ninth with 33 points.

“It’s the same again. We have to play and attack better,” Barca coach Xavi Hernandez told DAZN. “We made it 1-0 in a difficult stadium and we suffered at the end. It’s a golden win but we keep thinking about improving attackingly.”

Cheered on by around 40,000 fans who cheered on a sell-out San Mames, Athletic dominated action early on with Williams brothers Nico and Inaki a constant threat to Barca’s defence.

Clever Alex Berenguer almost scored in the 24th minute after Barca defender Jules Kounde missed a back pass to Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who got in front of the keeper but just missed his shot.

Man of the match ter Stegen made several crucial saves to stay clean, the first in the 30th minute when he hammered a close-range shot from Inaki Williams around the post.

He was lucky in the following corner when a Raul Garcia header went over the bar.

But just as Athletic was in full control and knocking on the door, Raphinha capitalized on the chance with an unstoppable punch to give Barca a breather before the break.

Athletic continued to fight in the second half and in the 71st minute Berenguer hit the post trying to put the ball in on a counterattack from inside the box.

Five minutes later it was Ter Stegen, who denied Athletic an incredible fingertip before Iker Muniain’s shot from the edge of the box.

In the 88th minute, Inaki Williams shot past ter Stegen but his attempt was ruled out by Muniain early in the build-up for a handball after VAR intervened and the referee checked the replay screen, causing outrage from Athletic players and fans alike.

“I see the pictures and I don’t know. It’s about what football is and what it isn’t,” said Athletic Manager Federico Valverde after the game. “I think VAR is there to correct blatant mistakes. That’s why it came in. Big mistakes. Balls that went in or not.

“To call the referee to see if he touches [a hand] or not. I don’t know if that belongs in the football world. Another day it will happen to another team.”

The hosts had another chance in added time, but ter Stegen’s reflex save was denied by Yuri Berchiche and Marcos Alonso headed off the line to stop Oier Zarraga’s shot from the rebound. Athletic Club vs. Barcelona – Football Match Report – March 12, 2023

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