Athletic Club defender Mikel Balenziaga has slammed VAR’s decision to cancel out his team’s equalizer in a 1-0 La Liga loss to Barcelona on Sunday (12 March).
Barcelona took the lead through a well-taken goal from Raphinha in first-half stoppage time, who was initially adjudged to be offside. A VAR check meant the goal was rightly awarded to the visitors.
Athletic Club thought they had an equalizer after Inaki Williams raced away from Barca’s defense to beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen in a one-on-one situation. After a VAR check, where the referee saw a replay of the incident on the pitch-side monitor, the goal was ruled out for handball by Iker Muniain.
The moment came in the 88th minute, which could have sealed at least a point for the hosts against the La Liga leaders. There has been debate as to whether Muniain had any choice but to protect himself with his left hand due to Frenkie de Jong’s presence in a 50-50 challenge.
❗️Mikel Balenziaga [Bilbao defender]: “We didn’t deserve to lose, I think the goal was unfairly canceled” #FCB 🔴
— Reshad Rahman (@ReshadRahman_) March 12, 2023
Inaki Williams’ equalizer vs. Barca was ruled out by VAR because of a handball in the build up of the goal. pic.twitter.com/8wj0cAm05z
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 12, 2023
For Balenziaga, the goal should have stood. The left-back said after the full-time whistle at San Mames (h/t @ReshadRehman_):
“We didn’t deserve to lose, I think the goal was unfairly canceled.”
Athletic Club had several chances to open their tally in the game. Alex Berenguer’s corner kick was headed onto the bar by Mikel Vesga 12 minutes from half-time before the former himself struck the post in the 71st minute.
Ter Stegen then saved a shot from Williams eight minutes later which was destined for the far corner. After being denied an equalizer, Athletic Club had three bites at the cherry three minutes into stoppage time.
Nico Williams’ fluffed his shot completely inside the box before Barcelona managed to clear the ball off the line twice. The win ensures that the Catalan giants will play in El Clasico with a nine-point lead over their rivals on 19 March.
Xavi hurls praise at Barcelona star after Athletic Club display
Manager Xavi Hernandez praised Barcelona left-back Alejandro Balde after his display in Barcelona’s win against Athletic Club.
The 19-year-old made seven recoveries, completed 90% of his 49 passes, created two chances for his teammates and completed all five of his attempted dribbles (h/t FotMob). Xavi said after the game, via ElDesmarque (h/t Heavy.com):
La Liga table as it stands pic.twitter.com/A4BFs7YzHe
— Naija (@Naija_PR) March 12, 2023
“The ceiling is to continue playing for Barça. He is in the national team, he has already played in a World Cup. He makes a difference in defense and attack. He is at a high level and he is giving us a lot. He is the surprise of the season. He is the revelation. He can be what he wants.”
The four-cap Spain international has laid out four assists in 22 league games this season.