Barcelona kept up their title hopes alive by beating city rivals Espanyol 1-0 at home on Wednesday, as the Griezmann-Messi-Suárez trident combined for the only goal of the game, thus pushing their neighbours to relegation from the top flight.
FC Barcelona (4-3-1-2):
Ter Stegen; Semedo, Piqué, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Roberto;Messi;Griezmann, Suarez.
Diego Lopez; Victor Gomez, Fernando Calero, Espinoza, Cabrera, Didac Vila; Pol Lozano, David Lopez , Marc Roca;Embarba, Raul de Thomas.
BarcaTimes expected vs Actual Lineup
In a must-win game for both Espanyol and Barca, the former was the better side in the first half. Barça though had hogged possession but failed target a single shot on goal, while Espanyol enjoyed clearer opportunities and should have been 0-2 ahead had they made utilise their chances in the first half. For both sides, their fate was depending on the result.
Espanyol’s Adrian Embarba was the first to test Ter Stegen when he got in down the right, but the German managed to make a save with an outstretched right foot. Espanyol did create few counter-attacks, but later, begore half time, Gerard Pique was caught out on the break by Raul de Tomas, but Didac Vila could manage only hit the post once the ball dropped to him though he has beaten Ter Stegen. In the first opening 45 minutes, Suarez had managed to string just seven passes while having failed to deliver four. He even lost the ball on six occasions.
Setien called off Nelson Semedo at half time to bring on the talented Ansu Fati. And Sergi Roberto slotted into the right-back position. However the 17-year-old’s half-time introduction failed to make an impact as five minutes after coming on, the teenager was sent off, as a VAR review has upgraded his caution to a red card as his high right foot caught Fernando Calero. A night to forget for the young La Masia Pearl.
However, Espanyol’s one-man advantage lasted only for three minutes, as Lozano who was initially awarded a yellow card, was changed to a red as replays showed that he caught Pique on the shin when going over the top of the ball.
Barcelona adapted quicker than the opponent side, in going a man down as Suarez put his side a goal ahead, following up a brilliant Antoine Griezmann backheel for Messi whose shot got blocked in the box. With that goal, Luis Suarez overtakes Laszlo Kubala (194) and is now the club’s third all-time top scorer.
Later, a Lionel Messi volley which seemed destined for the top corner was superbly saved by Diego Lopez. With some 20 minutes to spare, Vidal was brought in at the expense of Griezmann who had been good again throughout the match. The Blaugranes managed to win the game with the 1-0 sneak reducing Real Madrid’s lead to just a single point. Espanyol side couldn’t find their equaliser, let alone the two goals they needed, as their fate of getting relegated was sealed.
Goal SUAREZ 1-0 56′
Griezmann’s backheel pass was hit by Messi, but got deflected, falls right in front of Suárez who slots it in home.
Ansu Fati for Semedo – 46th min.
Sergi Darder for Calero – 66th min.
Arturo Vidal for Griezmann – 71st Min. Campuzano for Embarba – 74th Min Braithwaite for Suarez – 82nd Min Wu Lei for Marc Roca – 86th Min. R. Araújo for Rakitic – 92nd Min
The win against Espanyol kept the title hopes of Barca alive. With yesterday’s loss, Espanyol sealed their relegation as they will get downed to the Segunda for the first time since 1993, and it was their arch-rival who had delivered them the drop.
Barcelona will travel to Real Valladolid next on Saturday while Espanyol will host Eibar, the following day.
Don’t miss to check our analysis on player performance here