Espanyol have done it again. No other team in the world is quite so successful at annoying Barcelona, and they've pulled off another big result today at the Estadi Cornella-El Prat, earning a late 1-1 draw after an impressive display in which they actually outshot their cross-city rivals.
Cesc Fabregas put Barca ahead in the 16th minute, but it was actually the hosts who had the best chance of the early game when Joan Verdu steered a header into what looked like an empty net only for Victor Valdes to teleport* over to make a save. Ten minutes later (and after a disallowed Fabregas goal), Espanyol were behind after the former Arsenal man managed to nod past Cristian Alvarez from the edge of the penalty area.
*I'm pretty sure it was some kind of magical thing, anyway.
Barcelona were ahead, but they were never really that dominant, and the home side were clearly unafraid to attack the European Champions whenever they could. The visitors were pretty stodgy throughout, and although they managed to get the ball in the back of the net after the break, it was pulled back for offside and they had very little else going for them. Just as it looked like Barca would settle for a 1-0 win, some very odd things happened.
First, Alvarez managed to injure himself while receiving a pass, slipping over and landing so awkwardly that he had to be stretchered off. Then, seemingly out of nothing, Espanyol pulled off an equaliser, Alvaro stealing in to steer Koulossa Thievy's flick beyond Valdez to make it 1-1. Then Barcelona were denied a stonewall penalty when Raul Rodriguez blocked Pedro's shot on the line. And then the game ended 1-1.
Clearly, the stars weren't in Barca's favour here, but they didn't play well enough to have really deserved a win. It's a big blow, too - they're now five points behind arch rivals Real Madrid, which gives Jose Mourinho and company far too much space to play with. Those were two points that the visitors probably couldn't afford to have dropped.