Barcelona, Jan 3 (IANS) Barcelona could only manage a goalless draw away to local rivals Espanyol in a tense and physical Catalan derby of La Liga here. Barcelona will complain that a permissive referee allowed some over-physical play from their neighbours, but the fact is that had they taken their chances on Saturday, they would have won the game comfortably, reported Xinhua on Sunday.
Catalan derbies tend to be feisty affairs and this was no different, especially as referee Gonzalez Gonzalez, who just three days earlier had officiated Real Madrid’s controversial win at home to Real Sociedad, was prepared to turn a blind eye to some physical play from the home side. As a result of the play being broken up by a series of fouls, Barca struggled to combine in the middle of the park and their best effort came when Leo Messi hit the crossbar from a free kick with Espanyol keeper, Pau totally stranded.
Espanyol were more dedicated to destroying than creating and as a result their only first half chance was following a header from Alvaro Gonzalez from a corner, which Gerard Pique cleared off the line. The second half began with Luis Suarez wriggling into the Espanyol area but his shot and Neymar’s follow up were both blocked and the ball scrambled clear, before Messi saw another effort blocked five minutes later and Suarez somehow managed to hit the post after a ball over the top of the Espanyol defence soon afterwards.
Suarez took the ball round Pau, but hit the post from a narrow angle as Barcelona controlled the opening minutes of the half. Neymar tried his luck with an overhead kick which was comfortably saved, but with the clock running out both sides began to run out of steam after their respective league matches on Wednesday. What adds extra spice to the game is that the two neighbours will meet again twice in the coming 10 days as they go head to head in the last 16 of the Spanish King’s Cup knockout competition.