Barcelona have mathematically clinched the 2022-23 La Liga title with four games to spare thanks to a brilliant 4-2 victory over crosstown rivals Espanyol at the RCDE Stadium on Sunday night. Barça saved one of their best performances of the season for the biggest game, thoroughly dominating their crosstown rivals and officially winning their first championship in four years.
Perhaps not even the most optimistic of Barcelona fans could have expected the first half they saw from the visitors. Barça were quite simply sublime in the opening period, quickly establishing their dominance through fantastic possession work and running circles around a helpless Espanyol side.
The Blaugrana were quick, precise and creative with their passing, their defense dominated, and their chance creation and finishing were at the highest of levels. They scored twice in the opening 20 minutes, with Robert Lewandowski using his striker instincts to fire home a cross from Alejandro Balde with his knee for the opening goal, and Balde adding a goal to his personal tally after a brilliant move and assist from Pedri.
Barça continued to dominate the ball and Espanyol quickly got desperate, resorting to physical play and hard fouls to try and slow down the pace, but the Blaugrana remained poised and continue to attack until they found another goal. And it came just before halftime, with Sergio Busquets winning the ball in midfield, Frenkie De Jong releasing Raphinha, and the Brazilian assisting Lewandowski’s second of the night to end a dream period for the visitors.
At halftime, Barça were up three goals and playing some of their best football of the season, and they just needed to keep up the good work to protect the lead and start the party in the second half.
Espanyol made two attacking substitutions at halftime and started the period with their lines much higher up the pitch trying to force Barça into mistakes and score a goal to give them some hope of a comeback, but the visitors quickly ensured that the victory would be theirs.
After a beautiful passing sequence against the press and a shot by Balde that was blocked by the Espanyol defense, the rebound fell to Frenkie De Jong who played a spectacular pass over the top to find the run of Jules Kounde, who arrived at the far post and headed home the fourth to seal the win — and the title.
With the three points guaranteed in such dominant fashion in the first 60 minutes, Barça relaxed and started making easy mistakes which led to some big chances for Espanyol, and the home team got a consolation goal with 15 minutes to go as Javi Puado was played through one-on-one with Marc-André ter Stegen and chipped the Barça keeper to give the home fans something to cheer about.
Barça woke up after Espanyol’s goal and began taking care of the ball again, avoiding the silly errors and easily creating chances with good passing and movement. They couldn’t score another goal, but were happy to run out the clock and wait for the final whistle to begin the celebrations.
This was about as perfect a night as a Barça fan could have asked for. To not only win the title, but to do so with a dominant win in the Derby and get to celebrate in their stadium is just too good. What a performance, what a night, what a victory, what a team. CAMPEONES CARAJO!!!!!!!!
Espanyol: Pacheco; Gil, Montes, Gómez (Puado 46’), Cabrera, Oliván (Koleosho 84’); Melamed (Expósito 87’), Darder, Denis (Calero 46’); Joselu, Braithwaite (Pedrosa 55’)
Goals: Puado (73’), Joselu (90+2’)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo (Alba 62’), Christensen (Alonso 74’), Balde; Pedri (Kessie 89’), Busquets, De Jong; Raphinha (Dembélé 62’), Lewandowski, Gavi (Fati 74’)
Goals: Lewandowski (11’, 40’), Balde (20’), Kounde (53’)