- Copy link
It was top against bottom on Saturday night, but as both managers had warned before the game, derbies are different. In a gripping, tense encounter at the RCDE Stadium, Barça were held to a 2-2 draw by their local rivals, whose equaliser came right at the end with the blaugrana reduced to ten men.
It was very much against the run of play when Espanyol, being managed for the first time by former Barça defender Abelardo, took the lead when David López, who hadn’t scored for 35 games, nodded in a free kick.
Until then Barça had had over 80% possession and the home side had produced little threat.
Suárez scorer and provider
The reaction came quick. Leo Messi was creating all the usual danger and Luis Suárez hit the post, but it wasn’t until after the break that all that effort was finally rewarded.
Suárez scored the first and set up the second, all in the space of just nine minutes.
The goal, an audacious finish off a Jordi Alba assist, was his eleventh of the Liga campaign. And the assist was for substitute Arturo Vidal. No goalkeeper has managed to save any of the Chilean’s shots this season (six out of six!) and this powering header was always going to beat Diego López.
Barça looked well in control from there on, and would probably have sealed the win had López not produced a sublime save from point-blank range to deny Suárez.
De Jong off
But there were two further twists in the story to come.
The first came with a quarter of an hour to go. Frenkie de Jong was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence. It was the first time the Dutchman has been sent off in his entire career.
Buoyed by playing against ten men and by the roaring home crowd, Espanyol pressed forward in search of more. And just when it looked like Barça had done enough to save the three points, Chinese substitute Wu Lei fired in an equaliser.
Despite the dropped points, Barça still take the honorary title of ‘winter champions’ for topping the table at the halfway stage, on goal difference ahead of Real Madrid.
Now La Liga goes on hold for a fortnight as Barça’s focus instead switches to the trip to Saudi Arabia for the new-look Spanish Super Cup.
- Copy link