Barca back on top

Barcelona rounded off a fine week to move top of La Liga as they overcame stiff resistance from local rivals Espanyol to win 1-0 thanks to a penalty from Lionel Messi.

By (AFP)

Published: Sun 30 Mar 2014, 12:36 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 10:41 PM

The Argentine scored the only goal of the game 14 minutes from time at Cornella El Prat after Javi Lopez was adjudged to have handled inside the area.

Espanyol were then reduced to 10 men when goalkeeper Kiko Casilla saw a straight red card for blocking Messi’s goalbound effort with his hands outside the area.

Victory moves Barca two points clear of Atletico Madrid and five ahead of Real Madrid with both sides from the capital in action later on Saturday against Athletic Bilbao and Rayo Vallecano respectively.

Knowing his side would be in for a difficult afternoon, Barca boss Gerardo Martino named almost his strongest side despite Tuesday’s upcoming Champions League quarter-final clash with Atletico. Andres Iniesta was left on the bench after having to come off during Wednesday’s 3-0 won over Celta Vigo with a slight muscular problem, whilst Jose Manuel Pinto replaced the injured Victor Valdes in goal.

The visitors started brightly and would have been in front had their star forwards been at their best as both Neymar and Messi wasted good headed chances when well placed inside the area.

Neymar then missed a glorious opportunity on 19 minutes when he blazed Dani Alves’ cross over from point-blank range with an open goal to aim at.

Pizzi was next to pass up a wonderful chance as just two minutes later he fired over with just Pinto to beat from Sergio Garcia’s inviting cross.

Javier Mascherano was lucky not to concede a penalty as he appeared to catch Javi Lopez with a stray arm as the Espanyol full-back broke into the box.

Neymar came close to breaking the deadlock once more before the break as he prodded Jordi Alba’s through ball beyond Casilla but the ball rolled passed the far post.

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