Ter Stegen hails Barca defensive effort as Xavi hits out at Athletic fans' 'hostility'

Raphinha's strike earned Barca a 1-0 win as Athletic fans throw fake banknotes with the word 'mafia' printed on them into the air in protest at the visitors over ‘Negreira case’

Athletic supporters throw fake money with Barcelona's logo to protest against the 'Negreira Case'. EPA
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Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen hailed a team effort as the Catalans kept another clean sheet to take a closer step to a first Liga title in four years with a 1-0 win away to Athletic Bilbao.

Raphinha's strike earned Barca a 1-0 win over the Basques on Sunday to restore their nine-point lead over Real Madrid at the top of La Liga.

It was a 19th clean sheet in 25 league games for Xavi's side this season and was also their ninth 1-0 win of the campaign.

The form of Ter Stegen is a big reason for the majority of those shutouts, and the Germany international was called upon to make some some superb saves in the second half against Athletic.

The hosts came close to breaching Barca's goal through an Alex Berenguer effort that struck the post, while Robert Lewandowski cleared an effort off his own line.

Athletic striker Inaki Williams had a late goal disallowed after VAR spotted a handball by Iker Muniain in the build-up.

"In the end what counts [is holding on], we defended with everybody, including in goal, on the goal line, these are games we have to win," Ter Stegen told DAZN.

"I have not seen the disallowed goal, but that's why we have VAR. It's a decision [the officials] have to take. We are very happy to keep another clean sheet."

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It was Barcelona's first game after being charged with corruption by Spanish prosecutors over alleged payments to a former vice president of Spain’s referees’ committee.

Athletic fans threw fake banknotes with the word "mafia" printed on them into the air, in protest at the visitors in what is being labelled as the ‘Negreira case’.

"I respect the fans at San Mames, they have always treated me well," said Xavi. "It surprises me this atmosphere of hostility towards Barca. It saddens me there's hostility towards Barca at San Mames, I don't think it's good for society."

With Ronald Araujo suspended, Xavi used Jules Kounde alongside Andreas Christensen and started Sergi Roberto at right-back.

In-form winger Raphinha finished well from Sergio Busquets' clever pass before the break, against the run of play, and top scorer Lewandowski missed two good chances on his return from injury.

Athletic fans throw fake money to protest against the 'Negreira Case' during the match against Barcelona. EPA

It was all Athletic again after that, with Berenguer hitting the post and Ter Stegen denying Muniain.

Eventually Williams blasted past Ter Stegen after racing through on goal but Athletic were left infuriated after Muniain's handball was spotted at the start of the move.

The win leaves the Catalans sitting comfortably clear ahead of next Sunday's Clasico at Camp Nou, while Athletic are winless in five in the top flight.

"I think that VAR is there to correct big flagrant errors," Athletic coach Ernesto Valverde told DAZN.

"Huge errors, balls that went in, or not. Calling the referee because it touched him, or it didn't touch him ... I don't know if this belongs in the world of football."

Updated: March 13, 2023, 6:37 AM