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Espanyol's midfielder Sergi Darder (left) shakes hands with Barcelona's midfielder Sergio Busquets at the end of the Spanish League match at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona. Image Credit: AFP

Barcelona’s lead over Real Madrid atop the LaLiga standings evaporated on Saturday after they were held to a 1-1 home draw by local rivals Espanyol in a bad-tempered clash in which both sides were reduced to 10 men.

Madrid had taken top spot on Friday with a 2-0 win at Real Valladolid, putting pressure on Barcelona to respond against an Espanyol side battling to avoid relegation.

Barcelona started strongly, with defender Marcos Alonso glancing a header into the net to give the hosts the lead with seven minutes on the clock.

Several chances

After a first half in which Barcelona spurned several chances, Alonso turned from hero to zero as he gave away a penalty following a clumsy foul on Joselu, who rolled his spot kick straight down the middle to make it 1-1 in the 73rd minute.

Tempers flared after the equaliser, with Barcelona’s Jordi Alba being sent off after receiving back-to-back yellow cards for vociferous protests against the referee, before Espanyol’s Vinicius Souza was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Robert Lewandowski minutes later.

Barcelona remain on top of the standings due to their superior goal difference, despite being level with rivals Madrid on 38 points from 15 matches, while Espanyol move up to 16th.