Barcelona found a way to finish in the La Liga Top 4 for a second straight week thanks to a 2-2 draw against Espanyol in a hard-fought Catalan Derby at the RCDE Stadium. Barça played very well in the first half and should have put the game out of sight, but allowed their local rivals to come back and take the lead and need a last-second goal from substitute Luuk De Jong to rescue a late point and stay in fourth place for another few days.
Barça started the game with a goal: just 80 seconds into the match, after a great bit of high pressing, the ball found Jordi Alba who played a perfect cross into the box to find the run of Pedri, who volleyed home the opener. The Blaugrana were the best team on the pitch in the first half and continued to dominate possession, and they should have made it 2-0.
Adama Traoré continued his impressive start in a Barça shirt with his speed and power on the right, and he was involved in everything good the team did. Espanyol offered almost nothing when they had the ball and tried their hardest to avoid the second goal, and they did thanks to a combination of poor finishing by Barça and great goalkeeping by Diego López.
As we reached the 40th minute only one team deserved to win, but the home side found a way back into the game when a long ball found Raúl De Tomás who passed it to Sergi Darder at the edge of the box and the midfielder’s shot deflected off the foot of Pedri and went into the bottom corner despite Marc-André ter Stegen’s best efforts.
At halftime Barça’s wastefulness in the final third cost them the lead, and it was all to play for in the second half.
Barça started the second half playing well and looking more dangerous up front, and they found a second goal when Gavi got to the ball before the Espanyol defense inside the box and found the back of the net to put Barça in front again.
But the goal was ruled out for an offside on Frenkie De Jong, and just a few minutes later Barça somehow found themselves behind when Eric García made a bad mistake trying to defend a long ball by Darder and De Tomás was all alone in front of goal to put the home team ahead.
Barça had 25 minutes to try and find an equalizer, and it was truly depressing to watch them show zero creativity and pass the ball sideways until they played a cross into the box. As we reached injury time things went from bad to worse when Gerard Piqué was given a red card, but Xavi’s Barça never gives up and still found a way to rescue a point when a cross from Adama Traoré found the head of Luuk De Jong and the big Dutchman scored a vital equalizer in the 96th minute. The final whistle came, and Barça will remain in the Top 4 with a valuable point in the Derby.
Despite the point gained almost feeling like a win, this was still a huge letdown after last week’s win over Atlético and Barça quite simply wasted a victory that was very much in their hands in the first half. But they kept missing chances and paid for a really awful defensive mistake. It’s a frustrating result, but staying in the Top 4 is definitely good news.
Espanyol: López; Vida (Calero 89’)l, Gómez, Cabrera, Pedrosa; Bare (Morlanes 61’ (Mérida 70’)); Puado, Herrera, Darder, Vilhena (Melamed 62’); De Tomás
Goals: Darder (40’), De Tomás (64’)
Red Card: Melendo (90+3’)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Dest, Araujo (Eric 46’), Piqué, Alba (Dembélé 72’); Pedri (L. De Jong 89’), Busquets, F. De Jong (Aubameyang 62’); Adama, Ferran, Gavi (Nico 72’)
Goals: Pedri (2’), L. De Jong (90+6’)
Red Card: Piqué (90+3’)