Raphinha fires Barcelona past Athletic after late VAR controversy


Raphinha fires Barcelona past Athletic after late VAR controversy

Raphinha scored his sixth league goal of the season to keep Barcelona on track for the title
Raphinha scored his sixth league goal of the season to keep Barcelona on track for the titleAFP
Barcelona ground out a 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao thanks to Raphinha’s strike, restoring their nine-point lead at the top of LaLiga and recording their 19th clean sheet in 25 league games in the process.

Despite coming into the match on a four-game winless run in all competitions, the hosts made a lively start, but could well have fallen behind on 17 minutes when Frenkie de Jong beautifully slipped in the returning Robert Lewandowski.

However, the division’s top scorer this season possibly showed signs of rust, taking a heavy touch when he should have pulled the trigger as Julen Agirrezabala gathered in gratefully.

Midway through the first period though, Athletic had an unexpectedly good opportunity of their own. Dani Vivian’s long pass over the top caused a mix-up between Jules Kounde and Marc-Andre ter Stegen, but Alex Berenguer could only help the ball wide under pressure from the Germany goalkeeper, who was making his 350th club career appearance.

The home fans were clearly in a mischievous mood, throwing fake money onto the pitch in reference to Barca being charged in the week over alleged historical payments to try and influence refereeing decisions. On the pitch, Ernesto Valverde’s side were causing their illustrious opponents lots of problems.

Inaki Williams drew a great save from Ter Stegen down to his left, before Raul Garcia - in for the suspended Oihan Sancet - crashed a header against the bar from Berenguer’s resulting corner.

But the visitors broke the deadlock on the stroke of half time as Sergio Busquets threaded a gorgeous ball through to Raphinha, who took a touch before rifling home from an angle, and although the effort was initially ruled out for offside, that decision was soon overturned by VAR.

Lewandowski wasn’t having his best evening and had another chance to open his account for the evening shortly after the break, but his header from Alejandro Balde’s pinpoint cross missed the target.

Former Barca boss Valverde threw on Iker Muniain for Garcia to alter the complexion of the contest, but that change had little impact until the diminutive forward’s whipped shot forced Ter Stegen into a brilliant save on 79 minutes.

Athletic thought they had equalised when Williams was played in and finished with aplomb, but the goal was chalked off after hitting Muniain’s left arm in the build-up, before a frantic passage of play in the dying minutes somehow saw Barcelona survive.

Xavi’s men host second-placed Real Madrid next Sunday before the international break, while Athletic travel to Real Valladolid on Friday night.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)

Check out the match stats now.


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