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Barça may have dominated the possession in Saturday’s Derbi Barcelonés, but it was a long wait before they finally found a way through Espanyol’s rock-solid defending. They got there in the end though, and once again it was Leo Messi who put the ball in the net. Twice!
The first was another supreme free kick to add to his collection, the second was the killer blow to a visiting side that for much of the match looked quietly confident that they might escape from the Camp Nou with their first league point in a decade.
The game took the shape that everyone expected, with FC Barcelona taking all the initiative and Espanyol sitting back and looking for options on the counter. They didn’t find too many of those, but they got the defending spot on and the genuine chances for Barça were few and far between in the first 45 minutes.
As usual, Messi was in the thick of almost every major attack, but tight Espanyol defending and a lack of Barça punch over the final third meant that a surprisingly uneventful first half ended without score.
Free kick stunner
The restart brought no major twist in the tale. Barça were still in command but Espanyol were containing every attack. It wasn’t until the hour mark that Barça finally hit the target, Diego López producing a fine save to deny substitute Malcom.
With just 20 minutes left, the game needed a little bit of magic. And the greatest conjurer of them all was the man to bring it.
He scored two direct free kicks against Espanyol when the sides met earlier this season, and that was the source of this afternoon’s opener when it finally came.
And what a delivery! He delicately struck the ball as if the wall didn’t even exist, and defender Victor Sánchez and goalkeeper Lopez were left flailing at the ball without being entirely sure where it had come from.
That was 40 goals for Messi in all competitions for an incredible TENTH season in a row!
The Espanyol dam had finally been broken, but although that has often led to the floodgates opening in recent derbies, there was none of that this time.
Top defending, including two superb interventions from Gerard Piqué and Clement Lenglet, made sure there was no way back in for Espanyol, whose attempts to sneak anything out of this game were finally laid to rest by Messi’s second.
Malcom was as much to thank for this one, producing a splendid run down the right before supplying the killer pass for the Argentinian to coolly slot home.
Game over and Barça move 13 points clear at the top of the table, with Atlético Madrid still to play later this weekend.
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