PIX: Barcelona win at Athletic; Juventus close in on top six

Raphinha strikes again to give Barcelona win at Athletic

IMAGE: Barcelona’s Rapinha celebrates scoring the goal against Athletic Club at San Mames Stadium in Bilbao, on Sunday. Photograph: Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Barcelona winger Raphinha secured a 1-0 win in LaLiga for the second straight week this time at Athletic Bilbao as his side tightened their grip on top spot ahead of a potentially season-defining week in which they host second-placed Real Madrid.

 

Repeating the combination of provider and scorer from last week’s 1-0 win at Valencia, Raphinha netted a thunderous strike right on halftime after a brilliant pass by midfielder Sergio Busquets who spotted the Brazilian ghosting behind the defence.

But Raphinha’s goal was one of only two Barca shots on target in the match as they survived a frantic affair in which the hosts were the better side for large parts of the contest.

Athletic saw two shots hit the bar and an Inaki Williams effort in the last few minutes of the game ruled out for a controversial handball in the build-up.

Barcelona have 65 points, nine clear of second-placed Real who face a must-win game at Camp Nou next Sunday to keep their slim chances of retaining the title alive. Athletic are ninth on 33 points.

“It’s the same thing once again. We have to play and attack better,” coach Barca Xavi Hernandez told DAZN.

“We went 1-0 in a difficult stadium and end up suffering. It is a golden victory, but we keep thinking about improving offensively.”

IMAGE: Barcelona’s Alejandro Balde is tackled by Alex Berenguer of Athletic Bilbao. Photograph: Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Roared by some 40,000 fans who fired up a sold-out San Mames, Athletic dominated proceedings early with the Williams brothers, Nico and Inaki, a constant threat to Barca’s defence.

The clever Alex Berenguer almost scored in the 24th minute after Barca defender Jules Kounde messed up a pass back to Marc-Andre ter Stegen, the Athletic forward getting in front of the goalkeeper but putting his shot just wide.

Man-of-the-match Ter Stegen made several crucial saves to preserve a clean sheet, the first in the 30th minute, when he palmed Inaki Williams’ close-range strike round the post.

He was lucky from the following corner when a Raul Garcia header cannoned off the crossbar.

But just when Athletic were in full control and knocking on the door, Raphinha made the most of a chance with an unstoppable strike to give Barca a breather going into the break.

Athletic kept fighting in the second half and in the 71st minute Alex Berenguer hit the post as he tried to slot the ball home from inside the box on a counter attack.

Five minutes later it was Ter Stegen who denied Athletic the equaliser with an incredible fingertip save from Iker Muniain’s shot from the edge of the box.

In the 88th minute Inaki Williams fired past Ter Stegen but his effort was ruled out for a handball by Muniain early in the build-up after VAR intervened and the referee checked the replay screen, leaving Athletic’s players and fans outraged.

The hosts had another chance in added time but Ter Stegen’s reflex save denied Yuri Berchiche and Marcos Alonso headed off the line to stop Oier Zarraga’s shot from the rebound.

Juventus edge closer to top six after win over Sampdoria

IMAGE: Juventus’ players celebrate a goal against Sampdoria. Photograph: Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot scored in each half to help secure a 4-2 victory over bottom club Sampdoria in a thrilling game on Sunday that lifted his injury-hit side to seventh place and within sight of the last European spot.

Massimiliano Allegri’s Turin outfit now have 38 points and are four behind sixth-placed Atalanta.

Juve were without several key players including midfielder Paul Pogba who has a muscle problem from training and will be sidelined until after the international break.

Angel Di Maria, Federico Chiesa and Alex Sandro were also missing with injuries they received in the 1-0 Europa League victory at home to German side SC Freiburg on Thursday.

“This morning Pogba was taking free kicks and felt a twinge in his adductor. He will have tests tomorrow but will certainly not be there on Thursday or next Sunday so we’ll see him after the break for international duty,” Allegri told DAZN.

Gleison Bremer put Juve ahead with a header after 11 minutes when he outjumped the Sampdoria defence.

Rabiot doubled the lead with another header after 26 minutes when he met Fabio Miretti’s cross from the right.

The visitors then scored twice in 72 seconds just after the half-hour when Tommaso Augello tapped in a deflected shot before Filip Djuricic sent the Allianz Stadium into a shocked silence when he took a pass from the byline and fired into the corner.

Sampdoria chased another goal but to no avail and Juve’s players went in at halftime with loud boos from the stands.

“I think the team must improve in game management,” Allegri added. “We were leading 2-0, we had to close up the spaces and go on the counter-attack.

“The older defenders should have told off the younger ones and got them back into position. These are situations you get when players haven’t had many games for Juventus.”

Rabiot became the hero of the night for the home supporters when he scored his second goal of the match after 64 minutes with a volley from the edge of the box.

“He (Rabiot) is a player you enjoy watching, he has a different engine to the others. My idea today was to give Rabiot 60 minutes and Pogba 30, but then he got injured,” said Allegri.

The drama continued when Dusan Vlahovic missed a penalty for the hosts after Juan Cuadrado was tripped by Augello.

The constant pressure in the last part of the match paid off for Juve though when Matias Soule headed in the rebound after a save by Sampdoria’s Martin Turk four minutes into stoppage time.

The defeat leaves the Genoa club bottom with 12 points from 26 matches, 12 points adrift of the safety zone and at risk of ending their 11-year streak in the top flight.

Roma’s top-four hopes dented by Sassuolo loss

IMAGE: Domenico Berardi scores Sassuolo’s third goal from the penalty spot against AS Roma at Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Photograph: Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Ten-man AS Roma’s chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League took a hit as they suffered a 4-3 Serie A defeat in a goalfest at home to Sassuolo on Sunday.

The loss meant Roma missed the chance to jump into third place and instead they are fifth, level on 47 points with fourth-placed AC Milan who host Salernitana on Monday.

Armand Lauriente gave Sassuolo the lead after 13 minutes and scored again five minutes later when Domenico Berardi got to the byline and crossed for his fellow forward to net.

Roma reduced the arrears after 26 minutes when the unmarked Nicola Zalewski sent a volley into the ground that bounced over goalkeeper Andrea Consigli and looped into the goal.

However, the hosts then had Marash Kumbulla sent of for kicking the prone Berardi inside the box. Berardi got up to convert the penalty four minutes into first-half stoppage time.

Roma were without their coach Jose Mourinho in the dugout because the Portuguese is suspended after being sent off in the 2-1 defeat at Cremonese in late February.

Paulo Dybala breathed life into the game when he cut the deficit to 3-2 five minutes into the second half with a shot from the edge of the box into the top corner.

But the points were sealed 15 minutes from time when Andrea Pinamonti was played through inside the box and calmly lobbed the ball into the net.

Gini Wijnaldum got another goal back for Roma four minutes into stoppage time but Sassuolo managed to ride out a last-ditch attempt by the hosts to salvage a point.

The result leaves Sassuolo 13th with 33 points.

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