In a local rivalry known as the Catalan Derby, Barcelona continued its recent dominance with a 2-0 victory over Espanyol.
With the league title already in hand, Barcelona had an opportunity to see some of the younger players compete on the pitch that do not get too many starts. One person that stepped up was Alexis Sanchez.
The 24-year-old forward had an impressive seven goals and nine assists in La Liga this season, but he was often only used as a substitute off the bench. However, he came through with a very impressive goal early on to give Barcelona the 1-0 lead.
In the 14th minute, Sanchez navigated his way around a few defenders before finding David Villa for a quick touch that went right back to the forward. He then finished it past the keeper with a good finish on the right side.
After taking the lead, the rest of the half went exactly how Barca wanted it to go. There were few shots from either side and the visiting squad held possession for almost three-quarters of the action.
The second half was more of the same, as neither side had too many clear-cut opportunities at the net. David Villa had a few chances close to the net, but the shots kept going wide, as noted by F.C. Barcelona on Twitter:
Things heated up in the 80th minute when Mubarak Wakaso received consecutive yellow cards to be removed from the match. It appeared that the midfielder got into a heated argument with the referee and was sent off, giving Espanyol little chance at the comeback.
A few minutes later, Pedro clinched the victory with a nice flick over the keeper to make the score 2-0 in the 86th minute. Xavi had a nice assist on the play and the match ended shortly after.
Barcelona was already celebrating before the match even started thanks to a huge acquisition that took place on Sunday. Brazilian star Neymar will sign a five-year deal with the Spanish club, giving the squad yet another extremely talented offensive threat up front.
This has already been a great season for Barcelona. The club lost in the semifinals in the Champions League, but it clinched first place in La Liga over rival Real Madrid.
Espanyol is having a better year than last season's 14th-place finish, but the squad is still a long way from the top of the table. Sunday's loss will give the club little chance of finishing among the top half of the league.
Still, the squad should be proud of its effort against one of the top clubs in the world this season.
Alexis Sanchez, Barcelona: A+
With the addition of Neymar, Barcelona is not going to have a lot of space on the roster for forwards. Still, Sanchez played a strong match throughout and has been on a tear as of late.
He scored a fantastic goal in the first half, and he is showing that he is a valuable part of the roster and should be around for a while.
Alex Song, Barcelona: B+
Another player who has not gotten as much playing time as he was expecting this season is Song. The midfielder is in his first year with the club after being a big part of Arsenal's success in the past, but he managed only one goal and no assists this season.
While he was unspectacular on the day, he was a solid creator and helped the squad maintain possession throughout the match. He proved that he should be trusted in big games in the future.
Verdu, Espanyol: C+
One of the biggest problems for Espanyol this season was the lack of a go-to scorer. There were few players that could be counted on to make a big play when needed.
Verdu appeared at times that he could be that player and led the squad with nine league goals, but the veteran was nowhere to be found against Barcelona. He had few touches and was rarely in a position to do anything during the match, giving his squad little chance of victory.
Cristian Alvarez, Espanyol: A
There were certainly times when Cristian Alvarez was lucky that his opponents simply missed the net, but the goalkeeper was generally quite impressive throughout the match. Barcelona kept attacking, and he did a good job of keeping the match low-scoring.
The two goals allowed were difficult to defend, and Alvarez did almost everything in his power to give his side a chance to win.
|M||Víctor Sánchez (Off 72')||B+|
|M||Christian Stuani (Off 90')||A-|
|M||Verdú (Off 89')||C+|
|M||Simão (On 72') ||B+|
|M||Cristian Gómez (On 89')||B|
|M||Alfonso (90') ||B|
|M||Andrés Iniesta (Off 84')||B-|
|F||David Villa (Off 71')||B-|
|F||Alexis Sánchez (Off 84')||A+|
|F||Pedro (On 71') ||A|
|M||Xavi (On 84') ||B+|
|F||Cristian Tello (On 84') ||B|
Barcelona has one match remaining on the season, a home battle against Malaga with little on the line.
Espanyol continues to jockey for position in the league table and will have a good opportunity to move up in the final match. The club plays on Saturday against Celta Vigo, the current last-place squad in La Liga, and it hopes to finish the year on a high note.