LaLiga match report Athletic Bilbao v FC Barcelona 10 February 2019

Ruben Hill
February 11, 2019

Lionel Messi was short of fitness and Barcelona lacked spark as a goalless draw away to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday offered fresh hope to their rivals in the title race.

A thigh injury had limited Messi to 27 minutes against Real Madrid on Wednesday and while he played the full match at San Mames, Barca's assistant coach Jon Aspiazu had admitted before kick-off he was not yet 100 per cent.

The Germany keeper twice thwarted forward Inaki Williams and kept out a stinging drive from Markel Susaeta in an intense and entertaining game in which the champions came under heavy pressure throughout.

As a result, Barca coach Ernesto Valverde made first change in the 63rd minute as Carles Alena came on for Vidal in a straight swap in midfield.

After Real Valladolid at home next weekend, Valverde's side travel to Lyon in the Champions League and Sevilla in the league.

Williams had a wonderful chance to send Bilbao ahead in the 80th minute when the forward met a free kick from Muniain, but the ball flew just wide of the post, before the in-form Spain worldwide fired straight at Ter Stegen from another Muniain pass moments later.

Barcelona settled into the game but were never in control.

Indeed, had it not been for the German, they might even have left empty-handed with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez misfiring as Gaizka Garitano's men started and finished strongly.

Messi clipped a shot onto the top of the crossbar and over after goalkeeper Iago Herrerin had raced from his line to deny Semedo and then forced Herrerin into an inelegant save at his near post, but Raul Garcia saw a shot deflected wide by Sergi Roberto four minutes before the break. Barca enters the game in first place with 50 points and a record of 15-5-2, while Bilbao is in 13th place with a record of 5-11-6 and 26 points.

Bilbao had a golden chance to take the lead 25 minutes from time when San Jose found space in a risky position, but the midfielder's effort just missed the post.

Suarez stabbed wide with the outside of his right foot after turning on Messi's 74th-minute pass, but Gerard Pique did just enough at the other end to prevent Williams from making meaningful contact with substitute Iker Muniain's free-kick five minutes later.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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