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Jan 9, 2012

FC Barcelona dropped two precious points in their pursuit of league leaders Real Madrid with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Espanyol. In teh 200-07 season, it was against Espanyol we lost the league title. There is still 21 games to be played yet, but maybe at the ned of the season we would be considering this match as a turning point. Barca players may think theye were hard done by the referee as he didn't award a definite penalty in the dying moments of the match. But their overall performance didn't deserve anything other than a draw.Real Madrid opened up a six point lead at the top with their victory yesternight. So it was upto us to cut the lead back by three points. Guardiola went with the best eleven available - Valdes, Abidal, Puyol, Pique, Alves, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Messi and Sanchez. That resembled a 3-4-3 line-up. Espanyol lined up as Alvarez, Amat, Rodriguez, Moreno, Didac, Forlin, Romaric, Bifouma, Verdu, Weiss and Sergio Garcia with a 4-5-1 formation.

We started the match on top with Iniesta dominating the midfield, but it was Espanyol who had a brilliant double chance at the 6th minute. Valdes saved Verdu's first attempt and Pique saved the great chance on rebound with a goal line clearance. In the 10th minute Xavi played Sanchez through with a great lofted ball but Alexis mis-controls the take and the ball ended with keeper. In the 14th minute Fabregas had the ball in the back of net after Messi interecpted the keeper's pass but it was ruled out as their was a hand ball by Messi in controlling it. But we didn't have to wait much for the goa, in the 16th minute Fabregas finally scored with a header from Alves cross putting us 1-0 ahead in the fisrt local derby of the season. Espanyol responded immediately forcing a save from Valdes in the 18th minute. Our defense was looking a bit vulnerable as Espanyol counter attacks struggling to control possession and sometimes giving away the ball to Espanyol at most dangerous positions. In the 29th minute Iniesta forced another save from Espanyol keeper, Alvarez. Espanyol was narrowing down any space in the final third. In the 41st minute Verdu had a great chance to score when he broke the defense with a neat piece of dribble, but over plays it and allows Abidal to cut the chance off. Espnayol had the majority of the chances going into the break. The five man midfield has been built for counter attack and they were doing it really well. In the 45th minute Fabregas struck the post from a narrow angle, but he himself was at fault in narrowing down his angle.

In the 50th minute Alves shot from outside the box was well saved by Alvarez. In the 59th minute Alves had the ball in the back of net, but was correctly ruled offside. We were uncharacterstically misplacing so many passes and exposing us to unwanted Espanyol counter attacks. In the 71st minute Xavi fired his free kick high over the bar from a very dangerous position. In the 72nd minute Guardiola toojk off Sanchez, who ha d a very poor game and brought in Pedro. In the 77th minute Pedro did really well to create space on the left and crossed across the goal line, Messi who met it could only hit the post. In the 85th minute Keita replaced goal scorer Fabregas. In the 86th minute we conceded the equaliser when Vasquez headed from a cross from left. In the 90th minute Iniesta played Messi onside but was wrongly adjudged as offside. In the 92nd minute Pique hit the post, Pedro shot on rebound hit the defenders hand but no penalty was awarded.

Going 1-0 towards the dying moments of the match, it was not a big surprise seeing us concede the equaliser. Espanyol actually with their spirited performance had deserved that goal. They did really well in closing down the space for our players. Our attacking players apart from Iniesta was sloppy and too wayward in their passing and intensity. Lionel Messi had the worst game of his life in a Barca T-Shirt. Xavi had an average game, Sanchez, Alves all were crap throughout the game. The defensive players did really well till that decisive moment. Guardiola had to take a very big responsibility of this draw as he failed to make the necessary changes immediately after the break. Sanchez and Cesc were having an off day and he left it too late to bring in Pedro for Sanchez. It's actually after Pedro came, we started to create some nice chances, which should have been ended with a penalty to our favor. What this draw has done is, it has nullified the effect of that Clasico victory at the Bernebeu. Now it's upto Real Madrid to drop this important initiative. Only time can tell whether we will be looking at this moment as the week we lost the title. For the moment, the destiny of La Liga is very much in the hands of our rivals and we could only wait and hope for a slip up from them.

All About FC Barcelona


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