After a rather frustrating affair of around 100 minutes in the Spotify Camp Nou, FC Barcelona managed to come out of the Derbi Barceloní with only a singular point as they drew against local rivals RCD Espanyol.
As is usually the case whenever he seems to be involved, referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz again showcased exactly why he remains such a polarizing figure amongst the realm of football officials working at the very top level.
Issuing 12 yellow cards and 2 red cards during the game, many of the headlines will remain focused on his controversial refereeing in the massively anticipated clash.
Tactically, Espanyol showcased pretty early on that their 5 at-the-back system was a potential deterrent to the availability of Robert Lewandowski in Barcelona’s first starting eleven post-World Cup.
However, even as Espanyol on paper seemed to be approaching the game with a pragmatic mentality, their initial high press pretty much showcased the complete opposite. Piling on pressure and intensity with their challenges and initiations, Barcelona did not take long to come out of their own shell and regain proper control of the game.
Scoring within the first 8 minutes through a Marcos Alonso header following an Andreas Christensen assist, Barcelona seemed to have found a clinical touch way too early in the game. Following their first goal, the clinical touch seemed to have faded entirely amongst any Blaugrana player that was provided an opportunity to extend the lead.
Possessing a mammoth 78% of the possession during play, and generating a rather towering 2.29 xG compared to Espanyol’s 0.88 xG, this possessional dominance was still not enough to allow the home side to take the lead following Espanyol’s equalizer in the 73rd minute through a Joselu penalty.
Marcos Alonso ended up being the culprit in allowing Espanyol to be awarded the spot kick as his foot stamped and took off the boot of the attacker. Acting as both the goal scorer and “goal-giver” to an extent, it was a 50/50 game for the ex-Chelsea player.
While there were certain players like Pedri, De Jong, and Christensen that played their parts well, most of Barcelona’s squad seemed to be out of rhythm as the game progressed and it showcased itself more evidently, the repercussions of a mid-season World Cup and club football hiatus became evident.
Regardless of the rustiness amongst the teammates, they gradually began to find their footing in team play, and this in turn allowed for the better progression of the ball and clearer chances. However, these chances came to no avail as the home side was unable to capitalize, just as they were not able to capitalize on most in the early stages of the game as well.
Barcelona were unable to make the most of their opportunities and chances, and as Espanyol managed to convert a fortunate penalty, both sides from Catalonia leave the game as equals, winning a point each.
This result leaves La Blaugrana top of La Liga only on a better goal difference, as they are now level on points with Real Madrid after 15 games in the league, both sides having amassed 38 points each.
FC Barcelona next face third-division side Intercity CF in the Copa Del Ray round of 32 fixture, before facing Atletico Madrid as their next opponent in La Liga Santander.