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Neymar Jr and Messi deliver the goals in a confident 2-0 win / MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

Barça powered their way to victory at the Power8 Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Not even with an extra man could Espanyol find a response to two tremendous first half goals for the visitors, and with just five league games left to play, Barcelona remain in pole position for the Liga title.

The league leaders hurled their full arsenal at their local rivals straight from the kick-off. Before the first five minutes were up, home keeper Casilla had already been called on to make two fine saves against Neymar and Suárez. Shortly after Neymar was free in the area but his chip skimmed just over the bar.

Neymar and Messi score

Espanyol were in a state of disarray and had barely crossed the halfway line when the deadlock was broken after 17 minutes. In truly spectacular fashion, a long ball from Messi was exquisitely fed into the danger area by Jordi Alba’s first touch, and Suárez generously left the ball for Neymar to run through unmarked and slam the ball past Casilla.

On 25 minutes, Barça extended the lead. Iniesta deftly sent the ball over the Espanyol backline for Suárez to collect, and the Uruguayan had both Messi and Neymar free at the far post. It was Messi who did the duties, coolly controlling the ball and slotting it home. Barça were 2-0 up, and thus far in complete and utter command of the game.

After conceding the second goal, there was a little more life from the home side, but the best chance of what remained of the half still fell to Barça, Casilla producing a fine save to deny Neymar from the edge of the area.

Down to ten men

It was more of the same after the break, with Casilla getting his hand to yet another Neymar attempt before Barça were suddenly reduced to ten men when the referee showed Jordi Alba a red card for protesting. But losing a player didn’t do anything to thwart Barça’s dominance. No sooner had the game got back under way than Messi struck the Espanyol post, while on 62 minutes Neymar sent a sitter over the bar.

With a man less, there was a little more conservatism to Barça’s play for the rest of the second half, with the best chance falling to Messi following a wonderful run by Neymar, but the Argentinian failed to connect properly. Towards the end of the game, Luis Enrique sent on Xavi, who thus became only the eighth player to complete 500 Liga appearances.

Liga leaders

Espanyol battled hard to get back into the game, but Barça dealt with everything in calm and composed fashion. They were only truly threatened by a couple of chances for Stuani, one of which sailed over the bar and the other brought out the only major save of the game from Claudio Bravo with five minutes to go. What’s more, the game ended with the sides evenly matched again when Espanyol’s Mexican international Héctor Moreno became the second player of the afternoon to get his marching orders for protesting a refereeing decision.

So, three very important points for Barça, and regardless of what Real Madrid achieve against Celta, they’re top of the league for another weekend.

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