Espanyol 0-0 Barcelona: La Liga leaders frustrated by local rivals
By Lewis Dean
Last Updated: 02/01/16 5:12pm
Barcelona were frustrated by Espanyol as the La Liga leaders were held to a 0-0 draw at the Estadi Cornella-El Prat.
Luis Suarez had the best chance of the match when he rounded Pau Lopez in the Espanyol goal shortly after the re-start only to hit the post with the goal at his mercy.
Lionel Messi also struck the woodwork with a first-half free-kick in what was a quiet opening spell for the Argentine.
Espanyol - led by the resolute Enzo Roco at the heart of their backline - defended superbly and hassled their esteemed city neighbours from the start.
The result sends Barcelona one point clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid, ahead of their home clash with Levante, while Espanyol rise to 11th.
Constantin Galca welcomed Senegalese striker Caicedo back into the Espanyol starting XI and the striker was quick to make an impact on his return.
He tested the pace of Javier Mascherano in the opening minute and Barcelona might have found themselves in an uncomfortable position if the striker's touch had not let him down.
Barca dominated possession but were restricted to half-chances by an alert Espanyol defence. The one lapse from the home side came when Jordi Albva was allowed to wander to the back post to meet a Suarez cross only for the left-back to slice his effort wide.
Neymar, who was operating from a wide-left berth, then played a neat one-two with Suarez but the Brazilian was unable to find Messi with his pull-back.
Gerard Pique then came to the rescue of his goalkeeper after Claudio Bravo spilled a deflected Asensio corner. The Spanish defender was a full stretch to stop the ball going over the line.
Messi was playing in a deeper role than usual and had a subdued opening 45 minutes until he struck the woodwork with a curling free-kick from 25 yards out that had Lopez in the Espanyol goal well beaten.
Luis Enrique's side improved in the second-half and sped up their intricate and patient passing. But Espanyol looked rejuvenated under new manager Galca and went toe-to-toe with last season's Champions League winners.
After Suarez inexplicably hit the post, Barcelona toiled as Espanyol swarmed their players once they had the ball. At one point Neymar managed to squeeze the ball to Messi but his shot - weak and straight at Lopez - summed up his quiet afternoon.
Barcelona only have to wait four days to exact revenge when Espanyol make the four-mile journey to the Camp Nou for the sides' first leg clash in the Copa Del Rey on Wednesday.
Espanyol: Pau Lopez (6), Javi Lopez (6), Alvaro (6), Enzo Roco (7), Victor Alvarez (7), Pape Diop (6), Joan Jordan (6), Hernan Perez (7), Asensio (7), Caicedo (6)
Subs used: Moreno (5), Abraham (4)
Barcelona: Claudio Bravo (6), Dani Alves (5), Gerard Pique (5), Javier Mascherano (5), Jordi Alba (6), Ivan Rakitic (5), Sergio Busquets (5), Andres Iniesta (5), Lionel Messi (5), Luis Suarez (6), Neymar (6)
Subs used: Roberto (4)
Man of the Match: Enzo Roco