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Barcelona Edge Past Espanyol In Copa Derby

Barcelona Edge Past Espanyol In Copa Derby

The Blaugrana appeared to be home and dry after racing to a three goals lead, but Espanyol's tenacity made for a close ending.

Barcelona 3-2 Espanyol (3-2 agg.)

Barcelona will meet Mallorca in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey after edging past Espanyol by the odd goal in five.

What appeared at first to be a rather disjointed match blossomed into a thrilling encounter that brought four goals in the second period, including two for an Espanyol side set on mounting a thrilling comeback.

But in the end a Bojan Krkic brace and a Gerard Pique header trumped strikes from Coro and Jose Maria Callejon, giving Barcelona a deserved home win as they continue to fight on three fronts.

Barcelona started the better side, but with Espanyol's deep defensive line acting as the equal to both Lionel Messi's runs and Daniel Alves' cross, chances were hard to come by early on.

16 minutes in Aliaksandr Hleb and company claimed for a penalty after Steve Finnan collided over the ball with the Belarussian, but there was very little in it and play continued.

Two minutes later, though, the Blaugrana thought that they were in front after an excellent free-kick was whipped into the box by Xavi for Eidur Gudjohnsen to head home, but the Icelander's effort was correctly ruled out for offside.

Espanyol's best chance of the game followed soon afterwards as Coro played a wonderful ball over the top for Jonathan Soriano to run onto, but with Rufete waiting at the far post the forward opted to shoot; this he did with no accuracy as the ball flew way, way over the bar.

The ever-active Coro claimed for a penalty off Gerard Pique just before the half-hour mark, but in fact the first goal came at the other end as Barcelona's pressure paid off. Sylvinho rifled in a low trundler from just outside the box, and Espanyol 'keeper Cristian Alvarez for some reason failed to hold it. There was Bojan Krkic to seize on the loose ball and tap it in.

Cristian redeemed himself with a good save from another Xavi-Gudjohnsen combination header just before the break, but he was to have no such luck right after the restart.

Bojan got his second after an Espanyol passing move inexplicably broke down in midfield, allowing the excellent Xavi to thread a through ball to Bojan, who had hastily made his way onside. The teenager took the ball into the box before chipping it over the onrushing Alvarez.

As Barcelona continued to press Pique made it three; Lionel Messi won a corner which was taken short for Dani Alves. The ex-Sevilla man put in an excellent cross for the centre-back to nod home at the far post ahead of Angel.

But no sooner was that one in than Coro had pulled one back, his speculative twenty-yarder deflecting off Busquets and past Jose Manuel Pinto.

Although Bojan and Messi were combining well at the other end, eventually it came to Callejon to add a second for Espanyol. The Motril boy, late of Real Madrid Castilla, cut in nicely from the left before launching a stinger at goal; Pinto was foxed even though it was straight at him, and power saw it into the net.

Espanyol began to give it their all heading into the closing stages as Callejon tested Pinto again, but Barcelona were able to introduce Andres Iniesta and Samuel Eto'o to add some attacking energy.

Indeed, Iniesta was ever so close to giving Barcelona a fourth as his boot scraped Dani Alves' ball across goalmouth in the closing stages.

The attacking nature of the wide players involved made for an open finish, but Espanyol's frustration at being so near yet so far from a comeback was exemplified as Daniel Jarque picked up a second booking right at the death, and 3-2 it ended.

Match Stats: FC Barcelona 1-0 RCD Espanyol (Copa del Rey, January 29 2009)