Espanyol dents Barca’s title hopes with 1-1 draw
MADRID BARCELONAsuffered a major setback to their hopes of retaining their La Liga title when they were held to a 1-1 draw by city rivals Espanyol on Sunday, a result which left them five points behind Real Madrid.
Barcelona took a 16thminute lead through a header from Cesc Fabregas — the club’s 100th goal in all competitions this season — but were rocked when Alvaro Vazquez scored an 86th-minute equaliser with a low header.
Gerard Pique hit the woodwork in injury-time as Barca’s last chance for the three points went begging, leaving Real Madrid, who had coasted to a 5-1 win over Granada on Saturday, in control of their title destiny.
“Difficult game tonight, we left two points but we have to keep going till the end. Now time to rest,” Fabregas wrote on his Twitter account.
Espanyol have an exciting young side and coach Mauricio Pochettino promised that they would go out to attack which they did.
Joan Verdu was denied twice inside the opening minutes — first by keeper Victor Valdes and then Pique, who cleared the follow up off the line.
At the other end, Espanyol keeper Cristian Alvarez played a ball straight to Lionel Messi in front of goal but fortunately for the shot-stopper the Argentine handled it and was yellow-carded.
Barca did take the lead when Fabregas, left unmarked, headed home inside the penalty area after 16 minutes and again the keeper was slow to react as the ball went underneath his dive.
Espanyol had chances from distance, notably from Sergio Garcia, while Thievy Bifouma also looked dangerous.
It was far from a vintage performance from Barcelona but they looked in control and they could have had a second from Messi who clipped the post with 12 minutes to go.
But then Espanyol stunned the champions when Thievy headed on a cross to Vazquez who powered it home in front of goal with a diving header.
Pique crashed a shot against the woodwork in stoppage time but Espanyol hung on for a point.