Espanyol, who started this match 42 points and 19 places behind Barcelona stunned the league leaders with a 2-1 victory in a match which saw the referee produce 12 yellow cards and 1 red. Barcelona suffered just their second defeat of the season and also saw their lead at the top reduced to seven points as Real Madrid dished out a 6-1 hammering to Real Betis.
Barcelona attacked from the start and Espanyol struggled to get out of their own half. The first real chance came on 13 minutes after some good work by Messi on the right, Henry headed over from close range. Barca suffered a blow on 24 minutes when Puyol came on for Abidal who was forced to leave the field with a torn groin muscle, an injury likely to sideline the defender for about 8 weeks. The tackles were flying in and when Messi was floored by Angel on 28 minutes the match threatened to boil over as the furious Barca players surrounded the referee. Angel himself received an injury on 37 minutes and he was replaced by Roman. Barely a minute later Seydou Keita saw red for a late challenge on Moises and during this stoppage Eto’o and Luis Garcia were also booked, presumably for dissent.
Pep Guardiola replaced Henry with Sergi Busquets at the start of the second half in an attempt to add more steel to a now depleted midfield. Anderson Luiz Nene was having a fine game on the left for Espanyol and was enjoying the extra space, and on 51 minutes, after cutting into the edge of the penalty area he chipped in a cross to De La Pena who got ahead of Pique to head home. There was worse to come just five minutes later when Pique passed back to Valdes and Valdes, under no pressure, passed the ball straight out to De La Pena, who calmly produced a wonderful chip over Valdes to give Espanyol an unexpected two goal lead. Barca to their credit continued to push forward and on 62 minutes a freekick from the left was cleared only as far as Yaya Toure, who hit a sublime left foot shot past Carlos Kameni in the Espanyol goal.
Barcelona had a chance to level the score on 70 minutes when Xavi sent in a good cross but none of the three Barca forwards managed to connect. As Barca continued to press Busquets was now playing as a makeshift forward with the midfield pumping high balls into him, a tactic not normally seen in the Nou Camp. A Daniel Alves shot on 88 minutes was well saved by Kameni and as the rebound fell to Gudjohnsen his shot was cleared. Gudjohnson had a half chance on 90 minutes but screwed his shot well wide of the Espanyol goal.
For Espanyol this was their first victory since the beginning of November and they move off the foot of the table with Numancia taking their place.
Full Time: Barcelona 1 (Toure, 62) Espanyol 2 (De La Pena, 51, 56)
Yellow Cards: Pareja 16, Pique 20, Luis Garcia 38, Samuel Eto’o 38, Busquets 49, Jarque 52, Xavi 56, De La Pena 57, Sergio Sanchez 61, Yaya Toure 73, Puyol 76, Ivan Alonso 87
Red Cards: Keita 36
Barcelona: Victor Valdes, Daniel Alves, Gerard Pique, Rafael Marquez, Eric Abidal (Carles Puyol, 24), Yaya Toure, Xavier Hernandez Xavi, Seydou Keita, Thierry Henry, (Sergi Busquets, 46), Samuel Eto’o, (Eidur Gudjohnsen, 66), Lionel Messi
Espanyol: Carlos Kameni, Sergio Sanchez, Nicolas Pareja, Daniel Jarque, David Garcia, Hurtado Perez Moises, Martinez Cervera Angel (Roman Martinez, 37), Ivan De La Pena, (Ferran Corominas, 73), Anderson Luiz Nene, (Raul Montero Tamudo, 90), Fernandez Luis Garcia, Ivan Alonso
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