Referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz struggled to get to grips with the derby chaos as Barcelona were held by Espanyol at Camp Nou on Saturday.
Joselu’s late penalty denied Barcelona as Espanyol rescued a 1-1 draw during a Catalan derby that descended into chaos towards the end.
The Blaugrana replaced Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga on goal difference but were forced to settle for a point after returning to action despite dominating more than three quarters of possession and 21 shots.
Marcos Alonso broke the deadlock with an early header but then conceded a free-kick which Josela converted 17 minutes from time.
Both sides ended the game with 10 men after Jordi Alba and Vinicius Souza were sent off for second bookings as referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz – the man in charge of Argentina’s tumultuous World Cup quarter-final clash with the Netherlands earlier this month – has been widely dealt cards. the bruises of the final exchange.
Barcelona quickly established their authority when they took the lead on seven minutes – Andreas Christensen kept Alba’s corner alive with a header inside the box for Alonso to nod home.
Alonso should have doubled his tally then but volleyed home Alba’s tantalizing cross from close range.
Despite Gavi limping off early in the second half with a back injury, Barca continued to dominate the match.
However, their profligacy was punished when Joselu calmly rolled home from 12 yards after being tripped by Alonso in the box.
Barca’s frustration was evident and they were reduced to 10 men when Alba received a second yellow card for dissent.
Souza soon followed for a cynical foul, while Leandro Cabrera’s straight red for appearing to kick Robert Lewandowski was surprisingly overturned as the eccentric Lahoz took center stage.
Fernandez then took aim and made two vital late saves to secure an unlikely point for Espanyol.
Barcelona player ratings (4-3-3)
GK: Marc-Andre ter Stegen – 6/10 – Barely involved whatsoever. Unfortunate to lose his clean sheet.
RB: Sergi Roberto – 7/10 – Didn’t do a whole lot on the ball but his smart off-ball runs were really impactful in the opening stages. An intelligent performance.
CB: Andreas Christensen – 7/10 – With so little defending to do, Christensen was more involved in attack than at the back. A clever assist for Alonso.
CB: Marcos Alonso – 7/10 – Took every possible opportunity to get forwards and, unsurprisingly, got his goal. Perhaps a little unfortunate with the penalty but can have no complaints.
LB: Jordi Alba – 4/10 – Sensational early on as Barcelona played with a high tempo although his influence soon faded when the speed dropped. Really, really foolish to get himself sent off.
DM: Frenkie de Jong – 7/10 – His movement is what sets him apart from Sergio Busquets. De Jong was the conductor at the base of Barcelona’s midfield and played further forward after Gavi’s injury.
CM: Gavi – 6/10 – Cool on the ball but needed to speed things up when it became clear that Barcelona’s level had dropped. Forced off through injury early in the second half. Somehow booked for getting choked.
CM: Pedri – 4/10 – Held back in more of a deeper role here which really hampered his involvement, but was stunningly sloppy in possession.
RW: Raphinha – 4/10 – Played some nice passes but didn’t offer enough attacking threat himself. Probably a little too safe in that respect.
ST: Robert Lewandowski – 4/10 – Completely isolated in the centre as Barcelona failed to find their way towards goal. Surprisingly wasteful with the header that led to Alonso’s opener and missed another after the break. Good job Barcelona spent weeks making sure he was available for this.
LW: Ansu Fati – 3/10 – Erratic and ineffective. Hasn’t been the same since his injury and failed to take his chance here.
Sergio Busquets (52′ for Gavi) – 5/10 – The king of slowing things down did nothing to address the lack of urgency.
Ousmane Dembele (62′ for Raphinha) – 3/10 – Some absolutely rotten decisions as he lashed two shocking strikes well wide of goal when he should have done something else.
Ferran Torres (62′ for Fati) – 5/10 – Not particularly involved either.
Alejandro Balde (82′ for Roberto) – 7/10 – A lively threat who was let down by his teammates.
Jules Kounde (82′ for De Jong) – 6/10 – Didn’t get much time to strut his stuff.
Xavi – 4/10 – Had no answers for anything. The tempo slowed midway through the first half and Xavi changed nothing, allowing Espanyol to stay alive in the game and ultimately secure their equaliser. Failed to take advantage of the visitors’ tactical shortcomings and was made to pay.