March 21, 2023
Barça take victory in Bilbao, Real Sociedad stumble

Barça take victory in Bilbao, Real Sociedad stumble

Raphinha’s goal gave Barcelona an agonizing 1-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday to restore their nine-point lead over Real Madrid at the top of La Liga.

Real Sociedad stumbled to a 1-1 draw at Real Mallorca, their bid to finish in the top four fading at an alarming rate.

Struggling Sevilla earned an important 2-1 win over Almería to move up to 13th, two points above the relegation zone, leaving their opponents 19th.

In Barcelona’s first game after being accused of corruption by the Spanish prosecutor’s office, he silenced the noise and took another step towards his first title since 2019.

The Catalans recorded their 19th clean sheet in 25 La Liga games this season and held on to earn their ninth 1-0 win of the season, keeping Madrid in second place after the champions beat Espanyol on Saturday.

Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen made some magnificent saves in the second half and Alex Berenguer hit the post, but Athletic were unable to break the league leaders.

When Iñaki Williams finally made it late, the goal was disallowed after VAR detected a handball from Iker Muniain in preparation.

“In the end what counts (is holding on), we defended with everyone, even in goal, on the goal line. These are games we have to win,” Ter Stegen told DAZN.

“I haven’t seen the goal disallowed, but that’s why we have VAR. It’s a decision they (referees) have to make. We’re very happy to keep another clean sheet.”

With Ronald Araujo suspended, Xavi used Jules Kounde alongside Andreas Christensen and started Sergi Roberto at right-back.

The visitors made an exhibition with their backs to the wall to keep Athletic out.

Athletic fans threw counterfeit bills into the air with the word “mafia” printed on them, in protest at Barcelona’s corruption accusation.

“I respect the fans of San Mamés, they have always treated me well”, said Xavi.

“This environment of hostility towards Barça surprises me. It saddens me that there is hostility towards Barça in San Mamés, I don’t think it’s good for society.”

On the pitch, the Catalans were also under pressure, with Ter Stegen denying Williams and Raúl García heading against the bar.

In-form winger Raphinha finished well after a clever pass from Sergio Busquets before half-time, against the development of the game, and top scorer Robert Lewandowski wasted two fine chances on his return from injury.

Then all of Athletic returned, with Berenguer hitting the post and Ter Stegen denying Muniain.

Eventually, Williams got past Ter Stegen after running towards goal, but Athletic flew into a rage after Muniain’s hand was seen early in the play.

The victory leaves the Catalans sitting comfortably ahead of next Sunday’s Clásico at the Camp Nou, while Athletic has gone five without winning in the top flight.

“I think VAR is there to correct big flagrant mistakes,” Valverde told DAZN.

“Tremendous errors, balls that went in or not. Calling the referee because it was his turn, or not… I don’t know if this belongs to the world of football.”

– Society fights –

Real Sociedad have just one win in their last nine games in all competitions and were thwarted by 10th-placed hosts Mallorca.

The Basque team remains fourth, tied at 45 points with the third Atlético de Madrid, who visits Girona on Monday.

Carlos Fernández put Real Sociedad ahead early on, but were unable to extend their lead and soon paid the price with Lee Kang-In’s leveling.

Real Sociedad captain Mikel Merino was dismissed late for a late thrust on Abdón Prats to make a disappointing afternoon even worse.

“Today we wanted to win and the team’s reaction after his goal was phenomenal,” Real Sociedad manager Imanol Alguacil said.

“Being close (to winning) got away from us and we can’t do anything but reset and try to improve.”

However, neither Real Betis, fifth, nor Villarreal, sixth, were able to capitalize, sharing a 1-1 draw at the Estadio de la Cerámica, with Yeremy Pino’s goal canceling out Borja Iglesias’ goal.

Sevilla came from behind to beat Almería in an important battle for bottom.

Sergio Akieme put the visitors ahead but Lucas Ocampos equalized from a penalty.

Lamela headed in a cross from winger Bryan Gil to win for Sevilla after 73 minutes, helping Jorge Sampaoli’s side recover after being thrashed by Atlético last weekend.


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