Football news - Barcelona lucky to draw at Athletic Club as Marc-Andre rer Stegen rescues point
La Liga, San Mames - Athletic Club 0 Barcelona 0
Barcelona laboured to a goalless draw away to Athletic Club on Sunday, opening the door for Real Madrid to mount a late title challenge at the top of La Liga.
A few weeks ago, Ernesto Valverde’s side looked out of sight at the summit of the table. It appeared that this season’s title race would once again be a procession for the Catalans. However, back-to-back league draws have seen the gap between Barca and Real narrow to just six points.
Both teams had opportunities to win this game. Markel Susaeta came close to breaking the deadlock in the first half, only for Marc-Andre ter Stegen to pull off a stunning stop. Lionel Messi also lobbed an effort on to the top of the crossbar, with Iago Herrerin stranded off his goalline.
Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (C) kicks the ball during the Spanish league football match Athletic Club Bilbao against FC Barcelona at the San Mames stadium in Bilbao on February 10, 2019.Getty Images
Messi, who had to start on the bench against Real in midweek, looked well short of full fitness, with Philippe Coutinho also struggling to make an impression. Inaki Williams made his mark on this game, though, but couldn’t beat Ter Stegen with a series of efforts.
Athletic finished the game with 10 men following the stoppage time sending off of Oscar De Marcos, but there was no time for Barcelona to make the most of their man advantage as they wearily settled for a point.
TALKING POINT - History is repeating itself once again for Barcelona
Last season, Barcelona ran out of steam. It was around this time of year that the Catalans started to look weary. That their legs started to go. They won the league and Copa del Rey double, but their shortcomings were exposed in the Champions League. Valverde vowed to rotate more this season to avoid such a fate. Well, history seems to be repeating itself for Barca, who have drawn three games in a week and have won just two of their last seven games in all competitions. This was a tired performance from the Catalans, which is worrying given the run of fixtures they have coming up.
Barcelona's Spanish coach Ernesto Valverde gestures during the Spanish league football match Athletic Club Bilbao against FC Barcelona at the San Mames stadium in Bilbao on February 10, 2019.Getty Images
MAN OF THE MATCH - Marc-Andre Ter Stegen (Barcelona)
Were it not for the actions of their German goalkeeper, Barcelona would have lost this game. Ter Stegen made a number of good stops in this 0-0 draw, but two in particular were highlight reel worthy - one shot from Susaeta and another from Williams. A personal duel between Tea Stegen and Williams developed, but it was the Barca number one who came out on top. The best goalkeeper in the world? On this display, there’s a case.
Athletic Club - Herrerin 6, De Marcos 6, Yeray 7, Inigo 8, Balenziaga 6, Benat 7, Garcia 6, Susaeta 7, Garcia 7, Yuri 6, Williams 8. Subs - Muniain 7, San Jose 6, Kodro 5.
16’ What a save from Ter Stegen! Susaeta must have thought that he'd scored. His shot was heading for the top corner of the Barcelona net, but the German keeper made the flying save..
26’ Off the top of the bar! Herrerin came off his line to smother Semedo, who had broken in behind. That left the Athletic keeper stranded, though. Messi attempted the lob, but the shot bounces off the top of the bar.
40’ That's a big miss! That should be an opener for Athletic Club. Garcia was presented with a golden opportunity at the back post, but he puts his low shot wide of the target. Should have done better. Did it take a deflection?
83’ What. A. Save! Incredible. Williams had to score. Muniain cut back the pass, Williams gathered it in his stride, but Ter Stegen makes the close range save to keep the scoreline level!
90+3’ SENT OFF! Confusion at San Mames. Yeray was shown a yellow card. Or was he? Well, De Marcos is now walking off the pitch after being booked for a second time. Athletic down to 10.
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen has saved 30 of the last 34 shots on target he has faced for Barcelona in La Liga.
Gerard Pique is the only player to have started all 23 of Barcelona’s La Liga games so far this season.
Barcelona failed to score in a La Liga game for the first time since February 2018 against Getafe, 37 games ago.