Bilbao holds Barca to 0-0 draw

Athletic Bilbao’s Oscar de Marcos is shown a yellow card by referee Carlos del Cerro during their Spanish league match against Barcelona at San Mames, Bilbao, Sunday. — Reuters

BILBAO — La Liga leader Barcelona handed Real Madrid more hope in the title race as it drew 0-0 at Athletic Bilbao Sunday, only avoiding defeat thanks to some outstanding saves by Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

The Germany keeper twice thwarted forward Inaki Williams and kept out a stinging drive from Markel Susaeta in an intense and entertaining game in which the champion came under heavy pressure throughout.

Barca tops the standings with 51 points after 23 games, six ahead of a resurgent Real Madrid.

With Lionel Messi hampered by a recent thigh problem and influential left back Jordi Alba suspended, Barca was far from its usual best, creating few clear opportunities and ending the game defending deep as Bilbao continued to attack.

The impressive hosts were left frustrated by the sending off of Oscar de Marcos in added time for a second yellow card, but there was barely any time left for Barca to take advantage and they had to settle for a second straight league stalemate after last week’s 2-2 draw at home to Valencia.

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde was still

Brazil out of U-20 World Cup

Brazil beat Argentina 1-0 on the final day of the South American Under-20 Championship Sunday but the result was no good for either side as Ecuador pipped Argentina to the title with Brazil ending outside the qualifying spots for this year’s World Cup.

Uruguay and Colombia will join Ecuador, which won its maiden title, and Argentina in the finals of the biennial event that kicks off in Poland in May.

Brazil, which has won the South American championship more than any other nation, scored only six goals in nine games and finished fifth in the six-team final group.

It will miss the under-20 World Cup for the third time in the last four.

A lack of interest in the tournament was also evident in coverage with Brazilian media devoting more space to Neymar’s 27th birthday party than its youth team’ defeat by Uruguay the same night.

The Brazilian Football Confederation has also provided no information on its website about the players who went to Chile other than their names.

The elimination might, however, not impact the players or the national team’s future.

Barcelona’s Malcom, Manchester United’s Fred, Felipe Anderson of West Ham United and Everton striker Richarlison all played in disappointing campaigns in the past. — AFP