Espanyol 2-2 Barcelona: Visitors return to the top of LaLiga… but only on goal difference after Wu Lei grabs last-gasp equaliser following Frenkie De Jong’s red card
- Espanyol took the lead midway through the first half when David Lopez netted
- Barcelona responded after half-time with Luis Suarez and Arturo Vidal goals
- Wu Lei found a late equaliser for the hosts after Frenkie de Jong was dismissed
- Barca jumped to the top of the La Liga; leading Real Madrid on goal difference
If Wu Lei fever has been a little underwhelming at Espanyol since his high profile move last January his dramatic equaliser two minutes from time might change that. At the very least it will serve to upset his club’s city rivals Barcelona’s title challenge.
Chinese media and supporters mobbed the 28-year-old as he left the ground at midnight on Saturday night. No one has scored more goals in the China Super League but levelling against Barcelona to salvage a point in the Catalan derby might just top any of the goals he scored in his homeland.
Wu Lei had not bee on the pitch from the start as Espanyol took the lead through David Lopez. But when Luis Suarez and Arturo Vidal inspired a Barcelona comeback, the side currently propping up La Liga turned to their talisman and he delivered in spectacular style.
Barcelona players look dejected as Espanyol players celebrate their late equalising goal
ESPANYOL: López, Rodríguez, Pereira, Bernardo, Vila Gómez (Vargas 62), López (Iturraspe 67), Roca, Melendo (Wu 74), Calleri, Darder
Subs not used: Prieto, Pedrosa, López, Campuzano
Booked: Rodriguez, Roca
Goals: Lopez (23), Wu (88)
BARCELONA: Neto, Roberto, Piqué, Lenglet, Alba, Rakitic (Vidal 45), Busquets, De Jong, Messi, Suárez, Griezmann (Semedo 80)
Subs not used: Umtiti, Firpo, Peña, Pérez, Fati
Booked: De Jong
Sent off: De Jong (75)
Goals: Suarez (50), Vidal (59)
Referee: Carlos del Cerro Grande
Matias Vargas played the through ball and Wu Lei ran onto it before sending it past Neto on minute 88. It was the equaliser but it felt like the winner for Espanyol who have not won at home all season and are favourites for the drop.
Vargas celebrated with friends watching from the dug-out. David Lopez who had scored the first goal but been taken off injured hobbled along the touchline in celebration, while Wu Lei calmly took the acclaim.
Barcelona had not deserved to take any more than a point from a game in which Lionel Messi was largely anonymous and Ivan Rakitic taken off at half time. It was Rakitic’s replacement Vidal that woke Barcelona up after they were left chasing the game following Lopez’ glanced header from Marc Roca’s cross.
The contract rebel currently in dispute with the club over what he claimed last week was an unpaid bonus for appearances gave his team new energy and along with Suarez who looked 100 percent despite a winter break in South America hauled their team back in front.
Gerard Pique consoles Frenkie de Jong as the youngster is sent off against Espanyol
Luis Suarez silences the home crowd after scoring the equalising goal on 50 minutes
Midfielder Arturo Vidal celebrates after netting Barcelona’s second goal in nine minutes
Suarez converted from Jordi Alba’s pass and then crossed for Vidal to score what for a long time looked like being the winner. But Frenkie de Jong was shown a second yellow card for a shirt pull and when Barcelona went down to 10 men Espanyol believed again that they could take something from the game.
Up popped Wu Lei and Barcelona had to count the cost of two more points dropped on the road where they have only won four of ten games played.
‘I am using Vidal a lot from the bench,’ said Ernesto Valverde. Perhaps he is not as academic as some in terms of the positional game we play. He is more disordered but he appears everywhere and sometimes that is a virtue.
Espanyol took the lead after David Lopez headed in from Marc Roca’s free-kick
Gerard Pique makes a vital clearance as Wu Lei hunts another Espanyol goal
‘I changed him for Rakitic because of the way the game was going. I know what each individual player brings to the team. We were too academic in the first half and we had to shake things up a bit in the second period. Arturo [Vidal] has an intuition to his game and that turned things around for us.’
Espanyol’s new coach Abelardo said: ‘The 2-2 was a nice moment and now we need to build on that. We showed that we could be brave and I liked that.’
Barcelona now go into the Spanish Super Cup with the narrowest of leads at the top of La Liga. Just two goals separate them from Real Madrid who they will face in the four-way tournament in Saudi Arabia if both teams come through midweek semi-finals.