Raphinha gives Barcelona the victory over Athletic.
Raphinha’s goal gave Barcelona a heartbreaking 1-0 victory against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, regaining a nine-point advantage over Real Madrid in the La Liga standings.
Barcelona silenced the commotion in their first game after being charged with corruption by Spanish authorities, as they advanced toward their first championship since 2019 by winning.
The Catalans hung on to achieve their ninth 1-0 victory of the season as they recorded their 19th clean sheet in 25 La Liga games this season, keeping second-place Madrid at a distance after the champions defeated Espanyol on Saturday.
Alex Berenguer hit the post and goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen produced some outstanding stops in the second half, but Athletic was unable to overcome the league leaders.
When Inaki Williams finally scored late on, the goal was overturned by VAR because Iker Muniain had committed a handball in the preceding play.
Due to Ronald Araujo’s absence, Xavi started Sergi Roberto at right-back and paired Jules Kounde with Andreas Christensen.
Barcelona started out well, still playing without injured duo Ousmane Dembele and Pedri, but Ferran Torres, starting on the left, dragged a shot just wide of the near post.
In an effort to get in behind Sergi Roberto, Ernesto Valverde, who won two league championships with Barcelona before being fired in 2020 while his club was still in first place, shifted Nico Williams to the left wing.
Barcelona was uncomfortable but managed to stay in the game despite the loss of crucial center-back Araujo because to Athletic’s effective pressing and relentless pressure.
Lewandowski could have given Barcelona the lead, but the striker made a heavy touch, allowing Athletic goalkeeper Julen Agirrezabala to snare the ball from his toes.
Gavi threw himself at the ball to attempt to block a pass with a diving header, demonstrating the fierce competition in the middle of the field.
Following Barcelona’s corruption allegations, supporters of Athletic tossed phony banknotes with the word “mafia” printed on them into the air in protest.
On the field, the Catalans were also struggling as Inaki Williams was denied low at his near post by Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
While Barcelona clung to its lead, Raul Garcia headed the ensuing corner and slammed it off the crossbar.
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Before halftime, they seized the lead against the odds after Sergio Busquets sent a deft pass to Raphinha, who finished coolly with his weaker right foot.
Raphinha was in a legal position when he got the ball, and so the Brazilian was soon entitled to celebrate after the goal was initially ruled offside.
Last week, Barcelona defeated Valencia by the same score thanks in large part to a goal from Raphinha, who is now in the greatest form of his career since signing from Leeds United.