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Athletic Club 0-1 Barcelona: Match Review



Photo by ANDER GILLENEA/AFP via Getty Images

Barcelona took on Athletic Club on Matchday 25 at the famous San Mames. The Catalans were under pressure to take away three points from a difficult stadium on the night, given Real Madrid’s comfortable win over Espanyol on Saturday.

Xavi took some interesting decisions in his starting lineup on the night. Sergi Roberto got a rare start at right-back with Jules Kounde and Andreas Christensen taking over the central defence. Alejandro Balde completed the backline.

Franck Kessie was rested as Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong, and Gavi started in midfield. Robert Lewandowski returned to the centre-forward role with Raphinha and Ferran Torres to his right and left, respectively.

The opening minutes at San Mames had Barcelona written all over. In just the second minute of action, Sergi Roberto and Raphinha combined in the final third to create an opening before Torres volleyed the ball into the side netting.

Raphinha’s freekick a little later in the game failed to hit the target. However, the rebound fell kindly for Sergio Busquets, whose volley was inches shy of the post.

A quarter of an hour into the game, there was mayhem in the Catalan area, with several Athletic Club players desperately trying to put the ball past Ter Stegen. However, all of Vesga, Nico Williams and Berenguer’s shots came to nothing.

Two minutes later, the visitors had a great chance to score when Frenkie de Jong sent Robert Lewandowski free in front of the goal. The Pole ran into the Basque box with pace, but Agirrezabala was there to make a good stop.

Ten minutes later, the Dutchman was back on creative duty for the Blaugranas as his lobbed ball fell straight to Christensen in front of the goal. However, the defender could not connect with the ball.

At the other end, Inaki Williams’ shot drifted millimetres away from the side netting at the half-hour mark. Raul Garcia hit the crossbar with the succeeding corner in their biggest chance up until that point.

Barcelona took the lead in the final seconds of the first half through a wonderful goal from Raphinha. Sergio Busquets created the chance with a well-timed pause on the ball before sending it to the Brazilian on the right. Receiving the ball, he unleashed a vicious strike and buried the ball into the back of the net. Though initially ruled offside, the goal stood on VAR review.

Xavi’s men walked into the tunnel at halftime with one goal and a precious lead at San Mames in their pocket. However, there was much to change in the second half for they did not dominate the game as much as they would have liked.

Barcelona had the first big chance of the second period when Balde’s cross found Lewy in the box. The Pole, however, could not find the target.

Franck Kessie replaced Ferran Torres in the 66th minute and the Blaugranas returned to their comfortable four-midfielder system.

In the 71st minute, the Basque side had a great chance when Berenguer got the better of Roberto on the flank. He moved centrally and drilled the ball goal-wards but struck the post after Christensen blocked it. Six minutes later, Ter Stegen came up with a series of clutch saves to deny Muniain and Inaki Williams.

Marcos Alonso and Ansu Fati came on for Sergi Roberto and Raphinha for the final seven minutes of play.

Athletic Club got right back in the game with a swift counterattack in the 87th minute as Inaki Williams outpaced Marcos Alonso and executed a perfect finish. Rightly though, it was ruled out as the ball touched Muniain’s arm in the buildup to the goal.

A ter Stegen save and a clearance by Jules Kounde off the line magically kept the ball out of Barcelona’s goal minutes later. Gavi came off for Angel Alcaron and got the closing minutes.

Barcelona held on to yet another 1-0 win in La Liga to take all three points at San Mames. A combination of good defence and luck helped them coast over a difficult second half as Raphinha’s lone goal separated the two sides.

Barcelona next face Real Madrid in an important Clasico that could potentially have a big impact on the title race.

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