A late VAR postponement secured Barcelona a narrow 1–0 victory over Athletic Bilbao as Rafinha continued his impressive form to restore the Blue and Whites’ nine-point lead at the top.
Barça looked pinned down by a dramatic equalizer by Inaki Williams, but it was banned due to handball and Xavi’s team narrowly succumbed in the face of intense pressure.
The guests had to endure the storm in the first half, surviving as much as possible during the break, when Rafinha struck in good shape.
Williams’ missed goal was then followed by later chances for Athletic, but the hosts’ efforts came to nothing as Barça edged ahead of former manager Ernesto Valverde.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) March 12, 2023
Blaugrana were lucky to survive Athletic’s promising spell in the first half.
Alex Berenguer shot wide after Jules Kunde underestimated the ball’s rebound, and a few minutes later Marc-André ter Stegen came to the rescue, turning Williams’ shot around the post.
Raúl Garcia’s header from a corner hit the crossbar and Barça converted shortly before half-time.
Sergio Busquets deftly went around the defender and found Rafinha on the right side of the penalty area, and the Brazilian shot into the far bottom corner.
A generally more cautious second half came to life in the last 20 minutes.
After Berenguer hit the post, Williams appeared to give Athletic a point with a decisive shot on goal, but Iker Mooniain put him out with handball on the build-up.
Nico Williams then failed to convert the tie-in and Yuri Berchish saw his follow-up pulled off the line as Barça somehow escaped San Mames with the points.