Barcelona: China forward Wu Lei scored late to give Espanyol a 2-2 draw against 10-man Barcelona in Saturday’s Catalan capital derby between the best and worst teams in the Spanish league.
Barcelona’s third draw in four rounds left it level on points midway through the season with second-placed Real Madrid, which beat Getafe 3-0 hours before. Barcelona kept the league lead on goal difference - and Espanyol remained last - after 19 of 38 games.
The Spanish league said Wu is the first Chinese player to score against Barcelona. The substitute got the equaliser for Espanyol with two minutes remaining after Luis Suarez had played a key role in putting Barcelona 2-1 ahead. Espanyol was helped when Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong was sent off for a second yellow card with 15 minutes remaining.
“The hardest thing to do is to turn a game around when playing on the road,” Suarez said. “I leave feeling we let these points slip away. Of course, when a rival plays with an extra man, it gets a boost. But that can’t be an excuse.”
Suarez cancelled out David Lopez’s first-half goal by scoring in the 50th with a precise touch of the tip of his right boot to steer Jordi Alba’s lobbed pass between goalkeeper Diego Lopez and his near post.
Suarez’s assist for substitute Arturo Vidal to give Barcelona the lead nine minutes later was just as impressive. Suarez first dribbled around a defender before using the outside of his right boot to flip a pass across the box for Vidal to head home.
Barcelona was heading for a comeback win until Wu broke free down the right side of the area to receive a pass from Matias Vargas and drove an angled shot past goalkeeper Neto.
The gutsy performance by Espanyol came in the debut of coach Espanyol coach Abelardo Fernandez, a former Barcelona defender, who became the club’s third coach of the season last week during the league’s winter break.
Espanyol remained winless in 10 home league matches this season, but its players and fans treated the draw as a great victory over its fiercest rival.
Barcelona, Madrid, Atletico and Valencia will travel to Saudi Arabia to contest the new-look Spanish Super Cup next week.
Valencia 1 Eibar 0
Getafe 0 Madrid 3
Atletico 2 Levante 1
Espanyol 2 Barcelona 2