Luis Suarez struck a second half winner for Barcelona to close the gap on Real Madrid at the top of La Liga to one point and relegate rivals Espanyol.
Quique Setien started Antoine Griezmann, Lionel Messi and Suarez once again after their impressive display in the victory over Villarreal on Sunday and while they failed to reach those sort of heights in this derby, they still combined to deliver the winning goal.
Raul de Tomas struck the post for the visitors in the first half as Espanyol more than held their own for the opening 45 minutes, but it wasn’t until the start of the second half that the contest truly came to life.
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A bizarre four-minute spell saw Ansu Fati, who came off then bench at the interval, and Pol Lozano sent off for two separate high tackles before Suarez struck what proved to be the decisive blow, finishing off a move that also involved Griezmann and Messi.
The win for Barcelona puts the pressure back on Real Madrid, who will play their game in-hand against Alaves on Friday night, while Espanyol now face the reality of relegation to the Segunda Division after a dismal season.
TALKING POINT - Espanyol have a big rebuild ahead of them to get back to La Liga
It had been coming all season long, so there was only resignation, not surprise or even sadness, at the sound of the full time whistle on Espanyol’s 27-year continuous stint in La Liga. They will now have a big rebuild ahead of them to get back to the Spanish top flight. This is a club with a lot of talent on their books, but will players like de Tomas and Wu Lei want to stick around in the Segunda Division?
MAN OF THE MATCH - Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona)
This was far from a vintage Barcelona a performance, but Griezmann made more happen for them in the attacking third than anyone else. It was his backheel flick for Messi that ultimately presented Suarez with the chance to score the only goal of the game. The French forward looks so much more comfortable through the middle where he can affect the match. He might finally have found his role at the Camp Nou.
Barcelona - Ter Stegen 6, Semedo 6, Pique 6, Lenglet 6, Alba 5, Busquets 5, Roberto 6, Rakitic 5, Messi 7, Griezmann 7, Suarez 7. Subs - Vidal 5, Braithwaite 5, Araujo 3, Ansu 2.
Espanyol - D.Lopez 7, Gomez 5, Bernardo 5, Cabrera 6, Calero 6, Didac 5, Lozano 4, D.Lopez 5, Roca 5, Embarba 6, De Tomas 6. Subs - Wu 5, Darder 6, Campuzano 5.
10’ Ter Stegen saves! Embarba had the pace to get in behind the Barcelona defence, he had to go his own as De Tomas was trailing some way behind, but the German goalkeeper makes the save with his feet! Good opportunity!
44’ Off the outside of the post! Espanyol should have taken the lead! Lenglet nearly turns a cross past Ter Stegen, with the German making the reflex save. The ball then falls to De Tomas, but he hits the outside of the post!
51’ SENT OFF! The referee has had a look at the VAR tape and he has changed his initial yellow card decision, instead choosing to send off Ansu for his high tackle on Calero. It was a bad one.
54’ SENT OFF! Just as he did with Ansu, the referee has reversed his initial yellow card decision and Lozano is sent off for a high tackle on Pique. Espanyol's man advantage lasted just a few minutes!
56’ GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Espanyol: Barcelona take the lead and it's Suarez who finds the back of the net! The ball was played in behind for Griezmann, he back-heeled for Messi, his shot was blocked and Suarez arrived on the scene to tuck away the finish and put the Catalans ahead!
69’ What a volley, what a save! How did that stay out of the net? Roberto played a cross to the back post where Messi met the ball on the full volley, he caught it flush, but Lopez made an astonishing save with one arm!
Luis Suarez became Barcelona’s third all-time top goalscorer with 195 goals.
Espanyol suffered relegation for the first time since 1993 and for only the fifth time in their history.
Barcelona failed to register a single shot on target in the first half for the first time in La Liga this season.
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