Barcelona will be one point behind La Liga leaders Real Madrid for at least a few hours to stay alive in the title race thanks to a hard-fought 1-0 victory over city rivals Espanyol on Wednesday’s derby at Camp Nou. Barça had an off-night and struggled a lot to break down the opposition, but Luis Suárez’s second half goal was good enough to secure the win and officially relegate Espanyol to Spain’s second division.
Barça started the game with lots of possession and passes in the opponent’s half, but they couldn’t replicate the same movement and intensity from the Villarreal match, and Espanyol playing with nine men behind the ball at all times didn’t help. The Blaugrana were slow and static, and the visitors had a couple of dangerous counter-attacks that forced Ter Stegen into action.
As the half went on the home team started to improve as the MSG trio looked for each other more, and the spaces began to appear slowly but surely. They still struggled to break down the bus, though, and the best opportunity of the half belonged to Espanyol: Dídac found himself in loads of space inside the box after a quick break, and the left-back hit the post with his weaker right foot.
At halftime, Barça had a tough game on their hands, and they needed to be more intense and more creative to find the winning goals.
The first ten minutes of the second half were WILD: Ansu Fati came on at halftime and was instantly given a red card for a dangerous challenge on Calero, then Lozano was sent off for a dangerous tackle on Gerard Piqué, and both teams were down to 10 men. And seconds after all the red cards Barça finally broke the deadlock after a beautiful move down the left ended with an easy finish for Luis Suárez.
Espanyol needed two goals to avoid relegation, and they started to attack and leave more space in behind, and Barça started to create chances. Lionel Messi almost scored a sensational goal if not for a brilliant save by Diego López, and a second goal felt inevitable as we reached the final 20 minutes.
But this definitely wasn’t Barça’s night. The Blaugrana looked exhausted at the end and continued to struggle in the final third, losing easy balls in midfield and wasting good counter-attacking chances. Espanyol desperately needed to score and had a few dangerous moments in the final seconds, but Barça survived and the final whistle came.
This wasn’t a good performance and a lot of players were below par, but this is an important win in the title race. But only one thing matters: ESPANYOL ARE GOING DOWN!!!
LET ME USE MY RIC FLAIR VOICE: WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Semedo (Ansu Fati 46’), Piqué, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic (Araujo 90’+1), Busquets, Roberto; Messi; Griezmann (Vidal 71’), Suárez (Braithwaite 82’)
Goal: Suárez (56’)
Red Card: Ansu Fati (50’)
Espanyol: Diego López; Gómez, Calero (Darder 66’), Bernardo, Cabrera, Dídac; Lozano, David López, Roca (Wu Lei 86’); Embarba (Campuzano 74’), De Tomás
Red Card: Lozano (53’)