LaLiga match report Athletic Bilbao v FC Barcelona 10 February 2019

Gaizka Garitano needs to rally his troops after last week's tough loss to Real Sociedad

LaLiga leaders FC Barcelona moved six points clear of second-place Real Madrid, despite dropping points at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday evening.

A thigh injury had limited Messi to 27 minutes against Real Madrid on Wednesday and while he played the full match at San Mames, Barca's assistant coach Jon Aspiazu had admitted before kick-off he was not yet 100 per cent.

"He saved us", coach Ernesto Valverde said.

The home side, hurting after a limp defeat by local rivals Real Sociedad in their last outing and with a heaving San Mames stadium willing them on, made an intense start and took the game to the champions.

Ousmane Dembele made his recovery from an ankle problem as a 75th-minute substitute, taking the place of Coutinho, whose problems in a Barcelona shirt continued.

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The visitors eased themselves into the game as Messi and Suarez, prompted by Philippe Coutinho, started to make their presence felt, although Athletic were handed the 11th-minute opportunity when Yuri Berchiche intercepted Arturo Vidal's loose pass and raced forward before firing just wide. Still, they twice should have scored, with Messi and Suarez both guilty of missing.

Messi clipped a shot onto the top of the crossbar and over after goalkeeper Iago Herrerin had raced from his line to deny Semedo and then forced Herrerin into an inelegant save at his near post, but Raul Garcia saw a shot deflected wide by Sergi Roberto four minutes before the break.

Bilbao made the game's first change, with midfielder Mikel San Jose replacing Benat Etxebarria on 57 minutes, while the Catalans responded with their first adjustment, with Carles Alena taking the spot of Vidal.

Ter Stegen was first called into action by a long-range strike from Susaeta, the German flying towards the top right corner to tip the ball over the bar with his left hand.

Bilbao had De Marcos sent off for a second bookable offence - deliberate handball - in the final moments, but Barcelona, who were denied a late penalty by VAR, could not find a victor as they failed to triumph for the third match in succession.

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