Espanyol 0-1 Barcelona: 6 Things We Learned
Barcelona saw off city rivals Espanyol on Saturday in the newest installment of the Catalan derby in one of the most entertaining and emotional matches of the season.
There was no separating the two sides throughout the match, as both clubs attacked well and created chances. Tempers flared all night long, and the referee struggled to keep control despite his best efforts.
Toward the end of the match, Barcelona were awarded a controversial penalty that Lionel Messi expertly finished off to give La Blaugrana the lead and the win.
With this victory, Barcelona move to the top of the table as they await the result of Atletico Madrid's match later on Saturday. However, Espanyol fans will feel as though they were cheated out of possible points.
In this article, we will take a look at six things we learned from the match and what the result means for both clubs.
Sergio Garcia Always Steps Up in Big Games
Catalan forward Sergio Garcia is a living legend at Espanyol and continues to be the undisputed leader of the club. On Saturday he put on yet another brilliant performance and made things very hard for Barcelona.
It seems as though he always plays at his best when Espanyol are facing a big rival.
In matches against Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid earlier this season, the striker put on dazzling displays, although he was unable to fend off such opponents alone.
His biggest moment of the season came against Athletic Club Bilbao when he scored to help Espanyol become the first club to win at the new San Mames in La Liga play.
Again on Saturday, he was the club's most dangerous man on the pitch. Barcelona struggled to deal with his constant runs forward, while the 30-year-old created countless chances for teammates.
Garcia was unable to find the back of the net, but fans will be pleased with his performance. Every club has that one player who gives everything he's got in the biggest of games, and Garcia is exactly that player for Espanyol.
Barcelona Are Still Giving Up Too Many Chances
With Victor Valdes out for the rest of the season, Jose Manuel Pinto has some huge boots to fill. The 38-year-old isn't half the keeper that Valdes is, which means the defense will have to step up.
However, in the Catalan derby, the back line did very little to help their keeper out.
In the first half, Espanyol had several chances to take the lead. Sergio Garcia, Pizzi and Simao all had beautiful chances in front of goal but put their efforts wide.
While Barcelona were able to keep a clean sheet, it had little to do with their defense. Espanyol only have themselves to blame for failing to score. They continued to take bad shots and put their efforts wide, but Barcelona gave them plenty of chances.
Neymar's Finishing Problems Are Now a Problem
In the early months of the season, Neymar was doing everything right except for scoring. He missed a lot of chances, but fans were sure the goals would eventually come. Not much has changed.
After the Catalan derby, it is clear that he is struggling to score.
Before the first-half whistle blew, the Brazilian had missed two wonderful chances to give Barcelona the lead. The first miss was atrocious, as he sent a point-blank effort over the crossbar, while the second came from a tight angle that he wasn't able to beat.
While Neymar is playing some brilliant football right now and getting himself into great positions, he has to start scoring. The 22-year-old was brought in to help Messi with the scoring load, yet that just isn't happening.
How much longer will fans have to wait before Neymar finds his scoring consistency? It's been nearly an entire season, and the Brazilian is still finding it difficult to finish even simple chances.
The Catalan Derby Is Still a Heated Affair
When it comes to Barcelona's rivalries, everybody talks about El Clasico and with good reason. Yet, it is impossible to ignore just how intense the Catalan derby can be.
On Saturday, the Catalan derby was as thrilling and emotional as ever.
Both clubs were going at it and left everything on the pitch. The match got heated several times to the point where it looked as though someone would eventually be sent off.
Harsh challenges came in, players lost their tempers, and the referee struggled to keep the peace. This match had everything that a derby should—even drama at the end.
Emotions aside, this match was what neutral fans were hoping for. The attacking play was brilliant all night long, and there was very little separating the two rivals.
There was a bit of drama at the end when Barcelona was awarded a questionable penalty and keeper Kiko Casilla received his marching orders. Defender Javi Lopez had to put on the gloves and actually did quite a good job in goal.
This was a Catalan derby for the history books. For Barcelona, the three points are as invaluable as ever, but beating their rivals on the road will be a huge confidence boost to finish the last two months of the season.
Lionel Messi Finally Scores at the Cornella-El Prat
For the first time in his historic career, Lionel Messi scored a goal at Espanyol's Estadi Cornella-El Prat.
It almost seems impossible that there is a La Liga stadium that Messi hadn't scored in, but that was the case entering this derby. Despite Barcelona dominating the rivalry, he had never scored at Espanyol's beautiful grounds.
That changed on Saturday when the Argentine calmly finished off a penalty late in the second half to give Barcelona a 1-0 lead and the victory.
The Cornella-El Prat has long been called a fortress against the left foot of Messi, and in many ways it is still just that. The Barcelona ace would have liked to score his first goal there with something other than a penalty, but finally finding the back of the net in any way is good enough.
However, the Espanyol fans will still feel as though the penalty should not have been awarded.
Javi Lopez Isn't a Bad Keeper
Espanyol fans will be unhappy with the sending off of Kiko Casilla for a long time. However, it did give the derby a memorable moment.
Because Espanyol had already used all three substitutes, defender Javi Lopez was forced to put on the gloves and man the post.
It was easy to assume that Barcelona would find at least one more goal with a makeshift keeper at the back, but it didn't happen. Lopez blocked one attempt from La Blaugrana and even managed to punch away a chipped effort late on.
Barcelona did not put many chances in on goal, but Lopez was able to deal with what he faced. As stated above, Espanyol fans will not be happy with this, but it did give the match something extra to enjoy.
Note: All statistics are courtesy of WhoScored.com.
What did you make of the Catalan derby? Were some of the calls controversial? Leave your thoughts and comments below!