Barcelona restored their nine-point lead at the top of La Liga as they edged to a 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao. Raphinha’s first-half strike was enough to settle the scores at San Mames, as Xavi’s outfit continue to close in on a first Spanish title since 2018/19.
Both teams played with great intensity and were on the front foot early on, as Ferran Torres and Nico Williams failed to hit the target with shots at either end. Robert Lewandowski then wasted a golden chance for the visitors, as his heavy touch let him down as he steamed through on goal.
That gave Ernesto Valverde’s side a huge lift, and they had a string of opportunities to take the lead, with Inaki Williams denied by Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Raul Garcia rattling the bar. They were made to pay for not being more clinical though, as Raphinha fired Barcelona ahead with a drilled shot into the far corner in first-half injury time.
Lewandowski could have doubled the lead after the break, but he sent a towering header wide from Alejandro Balde’s cross. In truth, though, the second half was played at a much slower pace, with a string of substitutions breaking up the game.
That suited Barcelona, who were happy to sit on their 1-0 lead and take the points. They were susceptible to a sucker punch, which was nearly delivered when Alex Berenguer saw his low shot tipped onto the post.
Ter Stegen came to the rescue once more late on as he superbly denied Iker Muniain, while Barca were left breathing a sigh of relief with Inaki Williams’ goal was ruled out for handball in the closing minutes.