Even San Mamés validated the 0-1 to which Barça has subscribed. The blaugrana will arrive at the derby with a nine-point advantage after adding their ninth league victory by 1-0 or 0-1, it doesn’t matter, against an unlucky and unfortunate Athletic. In the absence of football, two VAR plays were counted that certified Barça’s victory: one validated Raphinha’s goal and the other annulled Iñaki Williams somewhat to the irritation of San Mamés.
Julen Agirrezabala, Daniel Vivian, Balenziaga (Yuri, min. 70), De Marcos (Capa, min. 83), Íñigo Martínez, Raúl García (Muniain, min. 64), Nico Williams, Dani García, Berenguer (Guruzeta, min. 83), Vesga (Oier Zarraga, min. 64) and Williams
Ter Stegen, Alex Balde, Sergi Roberto (Ansu Fati, min. 83), A. Christensen, Koundé, Busquets, Gavi (Ángel Alarcón, min. 94), Frenkie De Jong, Lewandowski, Raphinha (Marcos Alonso, min. 83) and Ferrán Torres (Kessié Franck, min. 67)
goals 0-1 min. 45: Raphinha.
Referee Jesus Gil Manzano
Yellow cards Williams (min. 29), Sergi Roberto (min. 75) and Oier Zarraga (min. 86)
Xavi’s plan worked better than Valverde’s. Absent Araujo, Sergi Roberto played and not Marcos Alonso; Lewandowski recovered, Ferran remained and a fourth half did not enter like Kessié. To each doubt, Xavi responded with an offensive movement that allowed Koundé to keep the position of center back and not the right-back to which he has been displaced when Araujo was missing. Barça accepted an open match on a grandiose stage against a brave rival, loaded with forwards, without the sanctioned Sancet and with Raúl García. Valverde read Xavi’s lineup and changed bands to Nico Williams to face Sergi Roberto.
The game therefore began with Athletic outlined by Nico’s side. The rojiblancos stepped onto the Barça field and pressed the ball out near Ter Stegen. It was not easy for Barça to throw down the passing line because the team was imprecise and too stretched out, sometimes even a game, until De Jong connected with Lewandowski after fifteen minutes. The Pole made a mistake in control after driving and defeated Agirrezabala. The Barcelona fans, not very fine, work better in the recovery than in the elaboration in the absence of Pedri.
Athletic threatened more than played while Barça shot without their shots finding the goal, out of focus Ferran and Busquets, loose against Agirrezabala. The Catalans were not intimidating, too flat and not at all ingenious, and little by little the Basques came closer, who brushed the goal with a shot from Iñaki Williams and a header against the post after a corner from Raúl García. Gavi did not stop colliding and De Jong came and went without commanding after his best play was wasted by Lewandowski, uncoordinated since his return from the World Cup.
“Let Negreira come out!” They sang in San Mamés. “Second!” they insisted The attacks from Athletic had subsided and there was no news from Barça. The goal came by surprise when Busquets took the leather up front, broke Dani García and opened for Raphinha to cross a shot to Agirrezabala’s left right. Although the play was initially annulled due to the Brazilian’s offside, the VAR validated the goal when the break of a very open, gusty match, without control or football, was looming, as if the ball was in the way of both Athletic and Barcelona.
The goal calmed down the azulgrana a bit, more dominant in the restart, although repetitive in losses and discontinuous in the game against an equally disoriented Athletic. The match turned into a painful pastime: the blaugrana didn’t know how, little demanded and too comfortable, and the rojiblancos couldn’t, out of tune and without energy, to the despair of San Mamés. Valverde then turned to an agitator like Muniain and also to Zarraga while the Catalans withdrew Ferran and collected themselves with a midfielder like Kessié. There were no shots, no chances, an unprecedented landscape in Athletic-Barça.
Although the pace was barely picking up, there wasn’t a chance until the half hour mark when Berenguer fired into Ter Stegen’s right post. Barça didn’t know how to finish off the match and Athletic swelled from time to time, more because of the wind from their fans than because of their football, scarce on both sides for more interest than Xavi. The abandonment of the Catalans ended up waking up Muniain. Ter Stegen had to intervene with great success after a shot from the striker; not even in the darkest days should you underestimate the attacks of Athletic.
The VAR annulled a goal to Iñaki Williams by the hands of Muniain and Ter Stegen and Koundé avoided the draw that Athletic deserved while bills rained down with the signature “mafia” alluding to Barça. Technology, circumstances and Ter Stegen played one more game in favor of the 0-1 team.
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