Spanish giants Barcelona kept their title hopes alive after registering a narrow 1-0 win over local rivals Espanyol in La Liga on Wednesday, courtesy of a 55th-minute strike from Luis Suarez. The win at Camp Nou helped the second-placed Catalan club remain in close vicinity to Real Madrid.
Even though Barcelona owned a lion’s share of ball possession and dominated Espnayol thoroughly, they looked too slow with their passing. As a result, failed to pose greater threats in the visitors’ box. However, Antoine Griezmann had gone close to give his team the breakthrough after being set up by Suarez in the first half.
Espanyol, on the other hand, also took their chances with counter-attacks every time they got hold of the ball. Barca keeper Marc Andre Ter Stegen did well to deny Adrian Embarba first and then Clement Lenglet to keep parity in the contest.
Following the half-time break, the game changed drastically when both sides were resued to 10 men within five minutes. Barcelona suffered the first casualty as substitute Ansu Fati was sent off for a harsh challenge with his studs up. He was followed by Espanyol’s Pol Lozano after he clashed with Gerard Pique.
With more space on the pitch, Barcelona raised their ante and Suarez took full advantage of the developing situation. The Uruguayan striker struck past Espanyol gloveman Diego Lopez after he had denied Lione Messi. Lopez, meanwhile, denied Messi again, this time from a volley in the 68th minute.
Wu Lei came on for Espanyol with five minutes remaining, but the visitors’ best chances all fell to the impressive Raul de Tomas, who drew a decent save from Ter Stegen in the 89th minute.
By then, it was too late, and Espanyol remain with a paltry 24 points from 35 games, while Barca’s slim title hopes remain intact.
Wednesday’s two other matches saw Villarreal take a big step closer to Europe with a 3-1 win away to Getafe, thanks to two Santi Cazorla penalties and a Ruben Pena goal. Hugo Perales netted for Getafe and Villarreal’s Vicente Iborra, and Getafe’s Allan Nyon were both sent off for an altercation after the final whistle.
Betis also beat Osasuna 3-0 in the Benito Villamarin Stadium with goals from Guido Rodriguez, Alfonso and Carles Alena.
With IANS inputs