The FC Barcelona strengthened its leadership at the head of the LaLiga Santander table with a victory in San Mamés against Athletic Club reflected on the scoreboard by a goal from Rafinha on the hour in the first half and with great prominence from referee Jesús Gil Manzano and the VAR.
The referee from Extremadura had initially annulled the Brazilian’s goal, before from the VOR room Jose Luis Gonzalez Gonzalez get him out of his mistake; and later invalidated Iñaki Williams’ equalizer in the 87th minute after seeing it again on television and penalizing a handball from Iker Muniain much earlier than Gorka Guruzeta’s pass to the speedy striker from Bilbao.
That decision angered a public that was very much against Barcelona, to which they shouted ‘a Segunda, a Segunda’ on several occasions.
But the score was what it was and Barça maintains the nine points advantage with which they started the day over Real Madrid and Athletic He is still stuck in the middle of the table, fueling a losing streak that is now two points out of 12 possible.
From the start, Xavi returned to the 1-4-3-3 that he had abandoned for the 1-4-4-2 and opted for Sergi Roberto as a winger and Ferran as the third striker. Valverde, for his part, insisted on the double pivot Dani-García-Vesga as protection in midfield and also, with Muniain back on the bench, he bet on Raúl García together with the Williams and Berenguer in attack.
Stony team that gave the rojiblancos a better start, continuously putting pressure on a Barcelona that began to take control after fifteen minutes. Although Ferran had already threatened after a minute and a half with a shot to the side of the net, adjusted to the post; and Nico had responded with a high shot from the edge.
The dominance of the game gave Barça three dangerous arrivals and a great opportunity, a one-on-one between Lewandowski against Agirrezabala. But the Polish striker lost the last control, to a great pass from Busquets, and the young U-21 international goalkeeper was feline at the start.
Although in those Barca minutes, Berenguer was about to take advantage of a long ball from Vivian in which Koundé did not measure well and ended up catching Ter Stegen in a hurry due to the pressure from the Navarrese striker.
Approaching half an hour and, with the expectation of fer as far as the initiative to throw tickets at Barça for the ‘Negreira case, Athletic regained their spirits and generated up to two clear chances to score. A first that Iñaki crashed into the side of the net, to a pass from De Marcos and with Raúl almost as an assistant without touching the ball, and a header from Raúl from a corner kick from Berenguer that hit the crossbar.
The initiative to throw tickets at Barça did not go further, but the ones that did reach a great dimension were the cries from the stands of ‘a Segunda, a Segunda’ to the Blaugrana team. Everything seemed to stay at the initial 0-0 for the second half, when Busquets found Rafinha alone in the area and the Brazilian beat Agirrezabala with a cross shot. Gil Manzano annulled the goal in the first instance but the VAR took him out of the error.
That goal strengthened Barcelona in a second half in which they dominated and even threatened to make it 0-2 on a header from Lewandowski that was narrowly deflected from Balde’s center. Valverde reacted from the bench and put Muniain, Zarraga and Yuri on the field, and Berenguer was about to take advantage of a cast on the left.
But between Christensen and the stick they prevented him from drawing. The final stretch of the clash was coming and Athletic began the siege by subduing their rivals in scenarios like this with a cross shot from the front, after making the wall with Berenguer, which Ter Stegen sent for a corner. As the German goalkeeper also cleared a point-blank shot from Williams in a jumbled play in the offside area.
In the other area, Iñigo blocked a shot from Ansu from inside the area for a corner and the equalizer came through a drive by William that Gil Manzano annulled after reviewing it in the VAR for a handball from Muniain in a play well before the race with which Williams appeared before Ter Stegen after receiving a long ball from Guruzeta.
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