Barcelona held to a barren draw by 10-man Athletic Bilbao
Barcelona were held to a frustrating barren draw by Athletico Bilbao as they dropped two crucial points in the title race that sees arch-rivals Real Madrid reduce the deficit to just six points following their win over Atletico Madrid.
After climbing out of relegation places with a string of positive results, Athletic Bilbao were quickly off the blocks and displayed some confidence to take on Barcelona from the onset. The first real opening of the game arrived in the 11th minute when Yuri Berchiche almost punished Arturo Vidal for his sloppy pass but the former Paris Saint Germain left-back could only watch as his low effort veered narrowly off target.
Markel Susaeta forced Marc Andre ter Stegen into a top-class save when his curling effort to the top corner was denied by a stretch from the German shot-stopper after Susaeta received a cross pass from Inaki Williams.
It was all Athletic Bilbao in the opening 25 minutes and they were again denied by ter Stegen when Williams set up Raul Garcia who mis-controlled the ball was atoned by an overhead kick but unfortunately for him, his effort was straight onto the hands of the former Borussia Mönchengladbach keeper.
Gaizka Garitano were almost meant to rue their missed chances as Iago Herrerín’s clearance only went as far as Lionel Messi who was unlucky as his looping ball to the empty goalmouth cannoned off the top of the cross and went out.
Barcelona came into the second half a much-rejuvenated side but were frustrated by a well drilled Bilbao defense who had their work cut out to a stop their free-scoring forwards. Ernesto Valverde’s men were reduced to long-range efforts and set pieces as Barcelona found it hard to crack open the Bilbao defense.
Williams had two glorious chances wasted in the 80th minute, first heading over Iker Munian’s free kick wide and second being denied by a top class reflex save by ter Stegen when he fired his effort from the six yard box.
The point means that Bilbao leapfrog Levante to 13th while Barcelona drop two points meaning that the difference between them and Real Madrid is just six points.