Barcelona striker Luis Suarez saluted “one of the best in the world” after watching goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen deny Athletic Bilbao victory.
The Germany international produced saves from Markel Susaeta and Inaki Williams either side of half-time as Bilbao held LaLiga leaders Barca to a 0-0 draw at the Estadio San Mames on Sunday evening.
Suarez told LaLiga TV: “He’s one of the best in the world, no question. He showed it again – that’s why he’s the Barcelona keeper.”
Barca boss Ernesto Valverde was equally impressed by his goalkeeper, and particularly his stop from Williams eight minutes from time.
He said: “He’s made some amazing saves, especially the last one, it was incredible.”
It proved to be a frustrating night for the leaders as they started and finished slowly and when they were on top, struggled to find their usual cutting edge.
Messi, who has been nursing a thigh injury, was laboured in his attempts to make the impact he normally does as he found himself tightly and robustly marked, often to his clear frustration, while Philippe Coutinho was also off-key.
Valverde said: “We couldn’t really get going in the last third of the field. We thought the game would have more rhythm and it just didn’t turn out like that.
“We’re just responsible for what we do and I think in general, we should have created more than we did. They pressed us high, but we did get through that and we did get through to their box.
“But then that left us exposed to counter-attacks and they created problems.”
The visitors now sit six points clear of second-placed Real Madrid, while their hosts eased themselves four clear of the drop zone with a more than creditable result.
Indeed, Athletic boss Gaizka Garitano was left wondering what might have been after seeing his players create more than enough chances to win the game, only to be thwarted repeatedly by Ter Stegen.
Garitano said: “When you get a point against Barcelona, you should be happy. They dominated things more in the second half and Ter Stegen had a terrific game.
“In the first half an hour (of the second half), we suffered more, but they didn’t create a lot of chances.
“We’re happy with a point, but looking at the chances we had, we could have won it.”
Bilbao have lost one of the nine league games they have played since Garitano replaced Eduardo Berizzo in December, although he is refusing to be carried away by that run.
The manager said: “All the games in LaLiga are difficult. Even if you defend well, if you don’t score, you are going to suffer. But we’ll just keep working hard.”
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