FC Barcelona vs. Espanyol : Match report and analysis
Barcelona was restrained to 0-0 at Espanyol to cede the solid lead of the Spanish league to Atletico Madrid this Saturday, after Diego Simeone’s side received some late heroics from the substitute Thomas Partey for the second time now in four days.
“Once again, the changes gave us the boost we needed, above all Thomas with his decisive run,” Simeone said.
The victory secured Atletico two points ahead of Barcelona, with still having a game to play.
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez were also denied success by the goalframe as the defending champions surprisingly drew for a third time in four rounds after having been kept in check by the crosstown rival Espanyol.
Espanyol succeeded where 30 consecutive league opponents had failed, to hold Barcelona to a scoreless result. The last opponent to do so were Malaga in a 1-0 victory over Barcelona on Feb. 21 from the last season.
Espanyol also brought an end to a run of 11 straight games of at least one goal contributed by a member of Barcelona’s strike trident of Messi, Suarez and Neymar, who combined for 137 goals among them in 2015.
“They played well and with the intensity we expected,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said.
In one of its most humble halves this season, Barcelona could seriously intimidate Pau Lopez’s goal only late in the first half when Lionel Messi earned a foul and proceeded to curve his free kick off the corner of the goalpost.
The tone changed shortly after halftime when Suarez dribbled through the region and laid off for Neymar, whose shot fired from close range was stopped by defender Victor Alvarez.
Suarez squandered a great chance when he struck the upright from an amazing angle after dribbling past Lopez in the 55th.
Soothingly enough, Barcelona won’t have to wait too long to avenge the lost points. The Catalan capital’s first-division teams will start playing again in the round of 16 of the prestigious Copa del Rey on Wednesday and Jan. 13.