(Spanish league) Athletic Bilbao defy Barcelona

Business | 11 Feb 2019 11:24 am

Barcelona needed goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to put in a superb performance as the Spanish league leader failed to score and dropped points at Athletic Bilbao in a 0-0 draw yesterday.

The result ended Barcelona's run of 37 league games where it scored at least one goal. Its last league game without a goal was a 0-0 draw with Getafe on February 11, 2018.

Barcelona have now drawn three games in a row and are showing signs of fatigue as the season enters a critical phase. They were held 2-2 by Valencia in the last round and drew 1-1 with Real Madrid in their Copa del Rey first-leg semifinal on Wednesday.

The defending league champions left San Mames Stadium six points ahead of Madrid, who are hitting their stride and moved past Atletico Madrid into second place by winning the capital derby on Saturday.

German Ter Stegen made one-handed saves to deny Markel Susaeta and Inaki Williams in each half. The Germany goalkeeper did all he could _ and then some _ to turn away Susaeta's long, dipping strike in the 17th minute that looked goal-bound until Ter Stegen leapt back toward his far post and stretched up to palm the ball over the bar. He added a fine reflex stab to parry Williams' close-range shot in the 82nd. He also had two more routine saves to stop Raul Garcia's bicycle kick and another late effort by Williams.

Lionel Messi returned to Barcelona's starting lineup after playing just the final half-hour against Madrid midweek. Messi provided Luis Suarez with a well-placed cross that the striker was unable to connect with in the 22nd.

Messi was sent tumbling to the turf by Bilbao's defenders on several occasions, as they refused to let him reach the area in a scoring position.

Midfielder Arturo Vidal was particularly sloppy in his passing and was substituted in the second half.

SEVILLA RALLY

Ten-man Sevilla scored twice in the final minutes to salvage a 2-2 draw with Eibar.

The visitors appeared to be in charge after Fabian Orellana and Charles scored goals and Sevilla midfielder Ever Banega earned a second booking in the 84th.

But forward Wissam Ben Yedder sparked the comeback with a goal in the 88th. Midfielder Pablo Sarabia then touched Quincy Promes' cross just enough to steer it past goalkeeper Asier Riesgo in stoppage time.

The draw left Sevilla in fourth place _ the final Champions League berth_ two points above Getafe.

LEGANES HAT TRICK

Morocco striker Youssef En-Nesyri scored the first La Liga hat trick for Leganes, leading it to a 3-0 win at home over Real Betis.

En-Nesyri has scored seven goals in his last five games.

Leganes, a small club from Madrid, is playing its third season in the top flight.

Sixth-placed Betis finished with 10 men after Javi Garcia was shown a late direct red card.

VALENCIA DRAW

Valencia drew for a 13th time in 23 rounds after being held 0-0 by Real Sociedad.-AP

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