Barça fell asleep and Espanyol made them pay. The Barcelona team forgot to sentence a game they had in hand and their blue and white rival neutralized them to take a merit point from the Camp Nou. A point that means for Xavi's men to lose the advantage they had with Madrid. Barcelona remains the leader but only because of the goal difference. The derby arrived hot due to the precautionary measure against Lewandowski and ended the same, between a sea of cards and two expulsions, those of Jordi Alba and Vini. Mateu Lahoz was once again the protagonist, not because of the penalty, of course from Marcos Alonso to Joselu, the two scorers of the afternoon, but because he lost control and made everyone mad. "Out, out, out," the Camp Nou vociferated furiously.
The truth is that the referee hit the penalty and then fell into the grotesque.
The match was uncorked with some line-ups with novelties. Of course the Pole was in Xavi's, who decided to give Frenkie de Jong command of the square and seat Busquets. Meanwhile, Diego Martínez changed goalkeepers again and opted for Álvaro Fernández, who had not played since October. Melamed by Paudo was the other bet of the blue and white coach.
There were significant expectations after so long without seeing their teams in action in the League and the public responded by populating the Camp Nou after dinner on the last day of 2022. Everything was a playful and strange point. By dates, by time and by the return of the competition.
Hence, the game was born as a preseason match, with a low pace and inaccuracies. However, in their first attack, Barcelona was right. Gavi took advantage of a pass filtered by a clairvoyant Alba to test the Spanish goalkeeper, who responded with reflexes. But from the subsequent corner it was 1-0. Lewandowski finished badly with his head, but the ball landed on Christensen's head, which enabled Marcos Alonso to open the scoring with his head as well. Meanwhile, the entire Espanyol defense contemplating the action as if it were a canvas and they were in the museum, doing nothing, paralyzed.
The worst possible scenario hung over the blue and white team, distraught in qualifying. The early goal momentarily encouraged Barça. De Jong moved the team with dynamism, Pedri prolonged the actions, Gavi stole and Raphinha tried more frequently than neatness. Barça, then with rhythm, focused a multitude of balls into the area. It is not that it generated clear opportunities but it did create a sense of danger. Marcos Alonso and Lewandowski stayed close to the second between rebounds and Raphinha did make Álvaro work, who deflected his shot in an unorthodox way.
On the other side of the ring, Espanyol tried to raise their heads and, as the score did not increase until the break, they woke up a bit. The result of this was his only option in the first act, a shot by Melamed that providentially thwarted Sergi Roberto, who was making his debut as captain.
In that phase of the match, Barça was fading away, with Ansu Fati not winning a duel, and the public was becoming lethargic. The show was encouraged from time to time by the ineffable Mateu Lahoz with scenes from the Comedy Club to go hug each other between cards.
The best thing for Espanyol, despite losing, was the result, being alive in the match against a Barça that had stopped stepping on the accelerator. Xavi didn't take long to move the tree, forced by the discomfort in Gavi's lower back, who was relieved by Busquets. Diego Martínez responded by removing Puado and Edu Expósito for Melamed and Calero.
The game had been fairly even, only agitated by a service from Sergi Roberto that was missed by a confused Ansu and by a header from Lewandowski that grazed the post. Xavi got desperate and changed the ends. Dembélé and Ferran Torres, to play. He was looking for more bite and imbalance.
But his team had given away too many minutes and had allowed Espanyol to gain confidence. To the point that Joselu made the tie. First, causing a clear penalty from Marcos Alonso, who stepped on his boot, and then transforming it. The blue and white striker silenced the public, who responded with chants of “a Segunda, a Segunda”.
With the equalizer the derby took heat, now with the frizzy stands, tension on the benches, forceful tackles and Mateu in his sauce. To make matters worse, he expelled Jordi Alba for protesting. There was less than a quarter of an hour left and the setting now favored Espanyol. But the referee was already unchained and sent off two Espanyol footballers on the next play, Vini and Cabrera, the latter for a tackle on Lewandowski. With the game stopped for several minutes, Mateu went to the VAR and in the end he considered that Cabrera, who already had a yellow card, did not deserve the red card or another warning.
In other words, in the end there were ten against ten and the final stretch to play full of emotions.
Álvaro saved Espanyol with a huge save from Christensen's header. Now Barça was running and encircling the blue and white goal. The game was going and Lewandowski also ran into Álvaro. The blaugrana tried until the end but the marker did not budge. Sparks flew.