There could be no greater curse than playing alongside a team that is considered the “best in the world” by millions of fans worldwide. Perhaps even worse has to be sharing a city with said team, and constantly playing in their shadow.
Espanyol; a team currently ranked #9 in the La Liga standings faced Barcelona at Cornella el Prat, a stadium where they have yet to beat Barcelona. Only managing to create two victories over their last ten meetings, one cannot help but wonder how a team that is only marginally outdone by Barcelona could manage such unimpressive numbers? The two teams have met 78 times; Barca victorious in 27 of those, Espanyol with 25, and following today’s match- a total of 26 draws.
As Espanyol emerged, they seemed to enter the field determined to win. The fans seemed as enthused as the players – everyone anxious for the match to commence. Guardiola had chosen the same squad formation as the one utilized in the game against Real Madrid on December 10th; Fabregas, Messi and Sanchez up top for Barcelona.
From the minute the whistle blew; energy and enthusiasm were abundant. Espanyol managing to ruffle Barca’s defense in the 5th minute with a huge opportunity to take the lead early in the match, but Cesc Fabregas would ensure the lead for FCB in the 15th minute.
Following Barcelona’s goal, Espanyol seemed determined to find an equalizer; setting up multiple chances in both halves, so when Alvaro finally found the net in the 85th, it was both well deserved and well received by the Espanyol fans who were sent into a frenzy.
Despair evident on the faces of Puyol, Pique and Valdes. They were merely minutes away from securing a victory, but in futbol one play can change a whole game.
Barcelona attempted to regain the lead, and it seemed as though they would manage to pull it off as a triple threat in the 92nd minute put all the fans on the edge of their seats; first touch by Messi, then a ball passed to Pedro by Pique shut out by Espanyol defense, and finally an attempt by Iniesta.
Although many may argue that Barcelona was robbed off a penalty kick in the box, following a handball during the 92nd minute action, one must admit that there was more than one handball in this match; some called and some simply disregarded.
As the final whistle blew, Barcelona and Espanyol remained tied. One can not overlook the fact that Espanyol put up an admirable fight, and even though Barcelona had 64% possession…Espanyol didn’t seem too far behind Guardiola’s squad.
Barcelona remains in 2nd place, 5 points behind Real Madrid. Barcelona’s next match is scheduled for January 12th when they face Osasuna in the second round of Copa Del Rey.
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