FC Barcelona emerged victorious from their visit to Athletic, against whom they were able to resist the pressure from Real Madrid and maintain their nine-point lead in the standings on matchday 25 before the league ‘Clásico’ next Sunday. Real Madrid had beaten Espanyol 3-1 at home on Saturday and had come within six points, but Barça returned the initial equality by responding a day later with this victory in San Mamés.
The Brazilian Raphinha signed the Barca victory goal in first half discount (45+1), with a goal from a cross shot in the area, after receiving a pass from Sergio Busquets. The play was verified in the VAR to establish that there was no offside.
The VAR was also a protagonist at the end of the game, when Iñaki Williams scored at 88 minutes, but the goal was later canceled after the video images helped the referee to determine that there had been a previous handball by Iker Muniain in that play. Until Raphinha’s goal, the first half had been marked by alternatives in both areas and chances for one team and another.
Ferran Torres had the first clarity of the game already in the second minute, with a volley that went just wide. Athletic came close to taking the lead towards half an hour into the game, first with a shot from Iñaki Williams (32) that also went wide and then with a header from Raúl García (33), who smashed the ball into the crossbar.
In the second half, Athletic was unable to balance the deficit, although they also had chances, such as Álex Berenguer’s ball hitting the post in minute 71 or Iker Muniain’s strike that was saved by Marc-André Ter Stegen.
The goal disallowed by Iñaki Williams in minute 88 after the VAR review and a great double chance in the final discount, with Point-blank attempts by Yuri Berchiche and Oier Zárraga that saved between Ter Stegen and Marcos Alonso, left the ‘Leones’ especially frustrated.
Despite the enormous suffering at the end, Barcelona was able to maintain its comfortable cushion of nine points over Real Madrid, one week from the ‘Clásico’ league on Sunday next week at the Camp Nou.
That match will also be played amid the storm of the alleged arbitration corruption scandal involving Barcelona and before which Real Madrid announced this Sunday, after a meeting of its board of directors, that it will appear as an aggrieved party in the judicial investigation. .
With the new setback suffered this Sunday, Athletic (9th) continues to slow down in its European ambitions and is going through a difficult moment, with a balance of three defeats and a draw in its last four league games. In the rest of the games of the day, the victory of Sevilla (now 13th) stood out 2-1 in the derby against a direct rival for permanence, Almería (19th).
*With information from AFP.