LaLiga 2018-19: Athletic Bilbao 0-0 FC Barcelona: Hits and Flops
Real Madrid's newly bloomed title aspirations receive further fuel as Athletic Bilbao hold defending champions Barcelona to a goalless stalemate at the San Mames with the gap at the top now trimmed to only six points.
Having registered an emphatic derby victory a day earlier, the onus was on Blaugrana to riposte, but a resilient performance from the hosts nullified Messi and the likes. Make no mistake, the Lions could've even sprung a surprise with a win, but came a cropper in the final third by wasting a few good chances.
As for the visitors, their attack was no better. In fact, it was worse than Bilbao's, registering only two shots on target, and hence deservedly fired a blank, for the very first time in the league this season.
But despite the lack of goals, it was nerve-wracking and end-to-end stuff. Here are the hits and flops from the match:
#1 Hit: Marc-Andre Ter Stegan
Every once in a blue moon, you have somebody from the Barcelona team who'd outshine Lionel Messi with a truly outstanding display. And Ter Stegan was one such player today with a heroic performance to literally save his side's beacon.
The German shot-stopper was quick on the uptake, acting expeditiously in every moment of danger and frustrating Bilbao with his interventions. He never hesitated to charge out of his line to collect a looping ball, or punch it out of the harm's way. Having made five saves on the night, his best moment though, came early on when he tipped Markel Susaeta long-range howitzer over the bar with a jaw-dropping lunge.
Ter Stegan was relatively restrained after the break, but when Bilbao upped the ante towards the final throes of the match, he was once again on hand to cope with the pressure. In the 82nd minute particularly, the 26-year old palmed away Inaki Williams' effort for a corner and averted Bilbao's possible late winner.
Without him in goal today, Barcelona would have rather left San Mames with tails between their legs.