A contentious penalty was all that separated the two sides in the Barcelona derby, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic doing the honours from the spot.
Thierry Henry earned a start for Barca in place of the injured Lionel Messi, while Yaya Toure and Maxwell also entered the eleven. Espanyol, meanwhile, had to do without Ivan De La Pena and Raul Tamudo, while Shunsuke Nakamura started from the bench.
Los Periquitos caused a shock last season by beating the Blaugrana at the Camp Nou, and they looked in the mood from the kick-off, with Coro shooting wide after good combination work with Luis Garcia. In a frantic start to the game, Gerard Pique then saw his header will saved by Carlos Kameni.
It was an end to end encounter in the early stages, with Pedro firing wide after finding himself through on goal, following a poor clearance from Chica. Seconds later, Joan Verdu dispatched a shot goalwards, but Victor Valdes tipped it around in the nick of time.
A goal for either side seemed imminent, as Henry became the latest to be thwarted by Kameni, after being released by Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Yet, it did not arrive, and after a frenetic opening, the pace of the game slowed slightly.
With ten minutes left, Ibrahimovic combined well with Maxwell, only for the defender to shoot over the bar. Then came the first turning point of the game, with Raul Baena deemed to have fouled Xavi in the box, as the referee pointed to the spot. It was a poor decision as there was minimal contact, but the crowd were not complaining. In the absence of Messi, Ibrahimovic stepped up and duly smashed it into the top right corner, to give the hosts the lead.
That proved to be the final action of the half, as Barca took a somewhat fortuitous lead into the break.
Mauricio Pochettino made an immediate change for the second half, replacing Baena and Verdu with Javier Marquez and Jose Callejon. The visitors signalled their intent early, and Valdes had to be alert to deny Ivan Alonso’s header on 50 minutes.
Barca still looked the more likely to score, but they were having trouble finding a target for the many opportunities they created. Espanyol, meanwhile, came close once more through Marquez, whose long range effort did not miss by much.
With twenty minutes remaining, the referee failed to award Chica a second yellow despite a late challenge on Andres Iniesta, perhaps trying to make up for his earlier error. Ibrahimovic should then have increased the lead, but his effort at the far post from a Seydou Keita cross flew over the bar. It was to be his last contribution, as he was soon replaced by Bojan.
The Blaugrana were looking dangerous again, but Pique headed over the bar once more from a corner, keeping the visitors in the game. Kameni was constantly alert to snuff out a number of threatening balls into the box, while the visitor’s counter-attacking opportunities started to diminish.
Espanyol continued to fight valiantly, but it was Barca who looked more likely to score in the closing stages. As it was, neither side could find a second goal, as Barca maintained their five point lead before departing for the Club World Cup.No tags for this post.