Barcelona ratings: Raphinha makes big statement as Marc-Andre ter Stegen heroics see Xavi's men over the line against Athletic Club

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Raphinha's first half goal and a solid defensive display lifted Barcelona to a uncomfortable 1-0 win over Athletic Club to go nine points clear

Athletic Club enjoyed the better of the play in the first half, forcing two strong saves out of Marc-Andre Ter Stegen and rattling the bar from a Raul Garcia header. But Barcelona broke the deadlock before half-time, with Raphinha firing into the far corner from the right corner of the box.

The Blaugrana have made a habit of winning by fine margins of late, and the same happened here. They created little in the second half but defended diligently enough to grind out a result. Ter Stegen was crucial in the final minutes, breaking out a flurry of saves as the clock ran down.

Barcelona also benefitted from VAR, which ruled out a potential late equaliser from Inaki Williams after a questionable handball in the build-up.

It was all emblematic of Xavi's new Barcelona. They created less than their opponent but were simply more clinical, and dug in enough in front of their own net to win. These aren't pretty performances, but Barca now have a nine-point La Liga lead over Real Madrid with the Clasico looming next Sunday.

GOAL rates Barcelona's players from San Mames...

  1. Goalkeeper & Defence

    Goalkeeper & Defence

    Marc-Andre Ter Stegen (8/10):

    Made some immense saves to help retain his side's lead, including one terrific diving stop in stoppage time. Absolutely massive to this club.

    Sergi Roberto (6/10):

    Struggled to deal with the pace of Nico Williams in the first half, and did little to support Raphinha.

    Jules Kounde (7/10):

    Effective at centre-back, exploited at right-back as Athletic Club went more direct. Far better with Ronald Araujo for support. Made a crucial block in stoppage time to help see out the win.

    Andreas Christensen (7/10):

    Won his headers, passed well, but was given problems by the lively Inaki Williams.

    Alejandro Balde (7/10):

    Was effective going forward and gave everything defensively. Showed why he's currently preferred to Jordi Alba in the XI.

  2. Midfield


    Gavi (7/10):

    One daring tackle with his head marked a scrappy first half showing. Got on the ball more in the second half, and Barca were far better for it.

    Sergio Busquets (6/10):

    Assisted Raphinha's opener with an angled pass. Was a bit loose on the ball after the break, which helped Athletic Club build some momentum

    Frenkie de Jong (6/10):

    An accurate passer and rarely dispossessed, but didn't create much. Is more effective in a midfield four.

  3. Attack


    Raphinha (8/10):

    Scored the opener on the stroke of half time, drilling a shot into the bottom corner. Was lively down the right and held on to the ball well despite a lack of attacking support.

    Robert Lewandowski (6/10):

    A heavy touch cost him what should have been a certain goal. Missed a clear header in the second half, and didn't retain the ball as effectively as usual. Will need to find his shooting boots before the Clasico.

    Ferran Torres (5/10):

    Saw an early shot saved, argued with Lewandowski quite a bit. Didn't exactly inspire confidence.

  4. Subs & Manager
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    Subs & Manager

    Franck Kessie (6/10):

    Replaced the toiling Torres for midfield legs, didn't offer the midfield solidity that was required.

    Ansu Fati (5/10):

    Relieved a leggy Raphinha, failed to impact the game.

    Marcos Alonso (5/10):

    Watched the ball sail over his head for what should have been an Athletic Club equaliser, but saw the goal ruled out.

    Angel Alarcon (N/A):

    Didn't have time to make an impact.

    Xavi (6/10):

    An interesting one. Xavi benched Kessie and went back to a 4-3-3, which didn't quite pay off. Barca lacked creativity but the signature solid defending was on display. His side were very fortunate to see VAR rule out what would have been a late equaliser for the home team. The Blaugrana will need to be much better than this against Madrid. Still, they are nine points clear — which isn't bad at all.